I love electronic books, and I think they’re a huge plus in terms of convenience and accessibility. I still think we have a long, long way to go in terms of typography, but it’s the experience which is sticking for me at the moment. When I get home from my crowded tube, I want the intransient, generous, tactile pages of a paper book with deckled edges and a matt cover – just in the same way that I want tea and a lot of cushions rather than a hi-tech office chair. I want my sofa and my wife sitting at the other end of it with her books, and I want her to poke me with her toe when it’s time for us to go and make some dinner.
After a few years of enjoying and thinking about electronic books, paper still has a very specific place in my world – in fact, it has regained some ground. The depthless grey of my Kindle screen and the gloss brightness of the iPad or iPhone are fine and good, but they are not the hearth and home experience. For that, I want paper, with its grain and flexibility. I want to be able to manipulate pages in three dimensions, riffle through them, flick back. I want to be an ape with an object for a while, relax into my physical universe while my mind generates the world of the book.
That may be an artefact of my age; perhaps younger readers won’t have it. But I’m not so sure. It seems to me that one way our digital co-evolution could go is a growing understanding that digital is perfect for a specific set of activities, but bad for others. Much of what we do, especially as a family or in the arena of play, requires the creation of a particular mindset, an experience. And paper is a specific experience, with a set of requirements, realities, advantages and disadvantages.