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Emma Davies is a journalist from the south-west of England. She likes books, red wine and her duvet, and is at her happiest when managing to combine this trio of good things.

Read this article in Issue 16

Read other articles by Emma Davies

Confessions of an E-reader Hypocrite


Emma Davies


Vhcle Books, Issue 16

The idea was insidious. One moment I was idly wondering whether I’d ever actually want to own an e-reader; the next, I was browsing Amazon’s Kindle store. And questioning everything I knew about myself.

You see, I’ve always loved books. As in, the physical product. Pages to flick through, a satisfying weightiness, the sensual luxury of settling down to an experience that’s tactile as well as mentally engaging. All of those things you only get with a book itself. I’m not precious about them – I turn down pages, chuck them in my bag and occasionally even drop them in the bath. Like an old teddy, the tattiest books are the best-loved.

As such, I considered myself absolutely not an e-reader person, ignoring the evangelism from converts with a defiant “nopenopenope”. I didn’t need something smaller and lighter than a paperback. I didn’t have to be able to carry an entire library everywhere with me. I could get cheap books in second-hand stores, charity shops and supermarkets, thanks. It wasn’t just about the story I was reading; it was about the whole package.

I shop for books in an entirely haphazard manner. I go by titles, blurbs, imagery. Yes, I judge a book by its cover. What’s more, after more than 20 years’ reading experience, my hit rate is damn high. I know what sort of thing I like, and I love browsing to find it from an author I’ve never heard of before. Second-hand bookshops are my Kryptonite; I love the way they smell. E-readers don’t give off a musty aroma, do they? I maintain that an all-digital future is not the way I want things to pan out.

I own a lot of books. There are probably 15-20 on the bookcase in the lounge that I’ve yet to even read. And after one of the shelves in our kitchen started sagging, my boyfriend gently but sternly suggested that no more recipe books should cross the threshold of our apartment. Sure, I could download them to my iPad, but that screen seems awfully fragile, and our cupboards are prone to throwing random items outwards whenever their doors are opened. Perhaps a Kindle would be a sturdy, cheap-ish compromise. With lots of bargain cookbooks available. Maybe I could sync up my Instapaper account, too – it would be nice to have a bunch of ready-to-peruse articles with me at all times, after all...

I caved, of course. Largely due to a substantial discount voucher landing in my inbox (damn these big corporations getting inside your head), making a Kindle affordable enough to lug around with minimal fear of smashing, scratching or losing it. As a previously self-professed literary Luddite, I hung my head in shame. And then I went a bit mad buying books for the damn thing. All those points the converts had made? Turns out I do in fact love those things, too.

So far, I’ve raced (and sobbed) through The Fault in Our Stars in the space of one evening, devoured and been baffled by Gone Girl, made rapid inroads into Little Women, taken advantage of a bunch of special offers and downloaded an array of freebie classics from Project Gutenberg. I’ve also discovered that I can shop for books from my work computer when I’m bored and have them instantly delivered to the device, a fact that both my bank manager and company IT manager have doubtless taken umbrage with. I’ve yet to read a single article on it, either – just those e-books I’d sworn I definitely wasn’t interested in. Oh, how the haughty have fallen.

Best of all, though, was the realisation that I can have the best of both worlds. The book police aren’t going to stop me from wandering into an independent bookstore. I can still grab a copy of Stephen King’s (excellent) Doctor Sleep from the supermarket shelves. There’s nothing to keep me from getting stuck into that beautiful hardback copy of Valley of the Dolls sat on my bookcase. Despite what I’d feared, an e-reader hasn’t killed my love for books – it’s just given me another way to explore it.