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Friday, 3 September 2010

Why eBook Readers Still Need Bookshops

I don't have the latest, smaller, lighter Kindle because I'm still enjoying the previous model - mainly for the convenience. My choice of book depends on what I feel like reading, and I tend to have as many as 5 books on the go. That's a lot of books to carry round on a business trip or even a week away. It also suggests I have about 5 feelings.

Not everything I read is on the Kindle. Everything else seems to be stacked on my bedside table. That's the first reason owners of eBook readers need bookshops - people like to give books as physical presents rather than emails, which don't gift wrap so well. But I do happen to have 4 books on the Kindle now: The Worst Date Ever (Jane Bussman's superbly written account of the hilariously appalling life of a celebrity 'journalist'), Smile or Die (Barbara Ehrenreich on the evils of the 'have a nice day' culture), The Junior Officer's Reading Club (Patrick Hennessey brilliantly recounts his time as British Army officer), and Stage-Land (Jerome K. Jerome's humorous critique of the Victorian theatrical formula).

The main reason the owners of eBook readers need bookshops is for inspiration. There are only so many books you can instantly recall as ones you wish you'd read but haven't. And Amazon's recommendations tend to reflect what I've bought the rest of the family as gifts - you can't read Brio, and Aliens In Underpants Save The World" probably wouldn't look so good on a small black and white screen. Book reviews would be helpful if only I trusted them. Instead, I trust the first page of the book, but Amazon doesn't always let you "Look Inside". So there's ultimately no substitute for whiling away the time in a decent bookshop, Kindle in hand, discreetly downloading the best stuff more cheaply until the manager asks you to leave, or you find something that looks better in real life. Which is still possible.

Of course, all of this begs the question: what should tomorrow's bookshops look like? But that's another post.
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