Technophobes: us?

Beatrix Potter on Kindle?

Today Holly and I were thinking about our next review. It shouldn’t be a problem because we have so many books to go through but I suggested that, at some point, we ought to look at e-books. Just to see what they look like and feel like in place of paper.

Holly was as horrified as I was when the first mention of Kindle books came out, and said there was no way she was interested in reading a book on a screen. I understood her feelings on this. I spend enough time in the day writing on one and rather like the physical relationship that holding a book involves (if that doesn’t sound too bizarre). I refused to give in to the Kindle craze but, when Holly and my husband bought me an iPad for Christmas, I decided to download a book or two to try it out.

Some kindling for the Kindle

I must admit it was better than I thought. The Kindle app on my iPad has two main advantages for me:

1. It’s easier to carry loads of books around especially when travelling.

2. When I read late at night, I don’t disturb my husband with having the bedside lamp on till gone midnight.

It didn’t feel too odd either, especially as I was able to change the screen from glaring white with black lettering to a more pleasing sepia, plus I could adjust the brightness. However there are a few things that I am not convinced about:

1. It’s difficult sometimes to have a real feeling of how far I am through a book (I know I can see the page numbers, but it’s not the same as flipping around through them).

2. I still don’t seem to have the knack of highlighting bits as I would with a pencil in my hard copies.

3. The mistakes in the Kindle books beggar belief. Has a proofreader actually been through these drafts at all to check for typos, spelling errors, formatting, etc? It seems publishers don’t give as much of a damn if you download a book as they would in a hard copy. If not, why not, especially when we are all supposed to be going down this route?

What’s your view?

When it comes to children’s books, I wonder how they can transfer from the page to the screen. For chapter books that don’t rely on illustrations, I doubt much is that different, apart from the actual experience of reading. For traditional picture or board books, is the reading experience very different? I checked out this article from the New York Times and think I will have a look at downloading one or two so we can for our own opinion, but I would love it if any of you out there could recommend any good children’s books you’ve come across for iPads, Kindles, etc. Nothing like word of mouth.

In the meantime, I feel rather proud of Holly’s reluctance to move to the digital world. She’s always seemed happier living a 1940s(or earlier)-style existence and rates handwriting above typing, books above iPads, iPods, etc. I know at some point she will have to learn to become more comfortable with keyboards but, for now, we’re going to keep enjoying pens and paper.


  1. Fascinating to read this. I have no urge to read on a Kindle but I keep my ears out, so to say, for arguments to make me change my mind! I like the idea of being able to read without disturbing others, but the poor proof reading sounds like it would drive me mad.


  2. Thanks! I don’t mind the Kindle now I am used to it but, being a proofreader by trade, I find myself getting easily irritated by the mistakes. I still buy ‘real’ books though and don’t think I will ever stop. They’re too irresistible…


  3. As a Kindle reader I will take this opportunity to explain and defend (if necessary). I’m a book lover in a family of book lovers. Our house is full of books. Shelves in every room (though not yet the smallest but we may get that desperate) are full with overflows lying across the tops. I now have 50+ books I’ve read on my Kindle with a few more waiting to be read (no longer in a stack by my bed). I still buy books as gifts and used ones I can’t find to download, but it’s bliss not having to worry about more shelving, especially as we’re contemplating downsizing sometime soon. Horror! We’ll have to cull! Can we bring ourselves to do that? Maybe just the ones out of copyright that we can download?

    As for children’s books, no, I wouldn’t have left son in bed with a Kindle to read, much less an iPad. However, I do have an anecdote to relate from a friend of mine in the States. She was out at a family gathering in a restaurant when one of the little ones was getting restless. She whipped out her Nook and downloaded a book there and then and they could read it together. Magic! Better than playing a game on a phone.

    As for typos and formatting, I agree, some are dismal. Though printed books aren’t perfect either. It all depends on the publisher and the time and care they take to make sure their book is the best it can be. This is true of the big guys as well as self-published authors. Maybe readers should complain more so publishers take notice.


    • Ah, the trouble with space is always a difficult one. As someone who has bookshelves double-stacked and boxes of books everywhere I totally sympathise with this comment.

      The ability to download a book when you’re out and about is also helpful if you have a child to entertain. In the old days (dare I call them that when it might have been last year?) I would have popped into a bookshop and bought a book quickly but then if you’re out in the evening, or nowhere near a bookshop, this isn’t possible. And I do take my iPod out when we go for dinner in case Holly gets bored – she normally plays word games on it. So is that any different to reading I wonder? We will have to see…


  4. You are brave to delve into this topic! I too think that e-readers have there place – and I like the increasing interactivity of them. But I don’t (yet) enjoy reading to my daughter on an e-reader…it just isn’t cuddly in bed! And then there is the issue of too-much screen time, and possible health effects of wi-fi. It is an electronic device, even if it is for reading.


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