I wrote a little while ago some time after the advent of the iBook (meaning, the instantly-consumable book in electronic format on a screen with things like the iPhone/iPad/kindle etc – the eBook has been around for longer) about the obvious benefits of such a thing but equally the thing that’s missing when all you’re holding in your hands is some sort of electronic device and all you’re looking at is an LED screen (or whatever the kindle has).
Still, I gave it a try, and I have to say, it’s not going terribly. I bought Simon Schama’s The American Future on the iBook store to read on my iPhone, and I’m enjoying it. But the thing is, it has made me realise how much it’s the case that I distinctly enjoy a book on two levels:
1. the contents of the book
2. the fact that it’s a book
Point 1 is obvious; it’s point 2 that is causing me the trouble. I’m enjoying Schama’s writing, but frankly I’m really not happy with the fact that I can only stare at a small portion of text at one time. That the page doesn’t crumple and bend under my finger. That, apart from a highly functional indicator at the bottom of the screen, I can’t really feel or tell how far through the book I am. I can’t just flip back and remind myself of something very easily, or simply flick pages. Sounds silly I know. Some of it could probably be solved by me getting used to the ‘search’ feature, but sometimes it’s not that serious. You just want to look back at stuff you’ve read, for fun.
So for me, for now, in my state of epiphany, iBooks just don’t do it for me, at the moment. Don’t worry, Schama, I expect I’ll finish your book, it’s good. But for me a book has to be a BOOK, not a well-organised set of electronic data presented in an attempted replica of a book.