by Robin Saikia - British travel writer - www.robinsaikia.com
Monday, 7 March 2011
Spent a literary afternoon with my sons Inigo (7) and Sebastian (9), exploring my Kindle. The inbuilt dictionaries proved useful for Scrabble - note in the photograph the strategic use of ki, the life force and ka, one's spiritual "double" in the mythology of ancient Egypt (does anyone these days still read Dennis Wheatley? The Ka of Gifford Hillary is a pretty disturbing novel). Purchases were made. The Kindle History of Chelsea Football Club, a substantial modern classic, cost 71p (remarkably cheap) whereas Roald Dahl's Big Friendly Giant cost £5.99 which is more or less what it costs in bookshops. But that's not the point. It's remarkably convenient having all these books to hand in such an elegant device - I feel as though I'm Richard Porson with "all Bodley" in my pocket. True, quite a few people - mainly geeks - have fallen into the kindergarten trap of criticising the Kindle for not being what it wasn't supposed to be in the first place. It isn't a flash multi-media device built for movie junkies and Facebook addicts: the Kindle is supposed to be like a book - and it is. It's discreet, portable, pocket-sized, beautifully designed and has that precious, tactile, "it's mine" quality that makes a book a friend and something not to be lightly lent. It also provokes respect and envy - I've noticed people eyeing me up on the tube as I strap-hang from West Hampstead to Piccadilly reading John Evelyn's Discourse on Salletts (free). I'd go as far as to say that young crims will soon start stealing Kindles, the true test in modern times of whether something has 'arrived' or not being the extent to which people will want to nick it. I predict that soon every self-respecting crime-baron's floozy is going to insist on a croc-covered Kindle to underpin her intellectual credentials at the spa: Kindle owners are educated people, possessing an erudition and self-assurance that it is far beyond the scope of the i-pad or smartphone to confer.