When A told me he was getting a Kindle, I was – predictably - disgusted. The arguments on either side are tiresome. It’s better for your eyes; it removes you from reality; you can transport more books; it’s unsociable and ultimately industry-killing. I’m aware that my rebuttals are a blend of aesthetic and idealistic. Nevertheless my feelings are strongly held and immoveable. One of the reasons I told him I liked books despite their heft and impracticality is something John Updike wrote – that books are ballasts and should weigh us down. When we move we’re apt to think it’s just too easy; the regret and memories and hard work comes later. But when you’ve got books you have to plan, you have to give away, you have to store, have to half-break your back with effort. What you do physically mirrors your inner reality. Moving is difficult.
After toting my books from various libraries and bookstores today I almost want to retract that statement. The Complete Correspondence of Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, VS Naipaul’s newest collection of essays, and a book by Tom Paulin may have been £2 each, but they nearly broke my bike basket, not to say my arms, in the transporting.