A futuristic thriller that ends with mobile readers getting in my good books

20th January 2012 at 00:00
However resistant I might be to new technology initially, with innovation comes freedom

I have a long and honourable history of asserting that I will never need or use a particular piece of technology, then embracing it wholeheartedlyto the point of obsession. Examples include digital video, the internet, automatic transmission and, now, books on phones.

I was given a Kindle a few months ago and enjoyed using it. I am one of these people who like the fact that nobody knows what you're reading. Thus, on one of my frequent train journeys to Glasgow, I can appear to be engrossed in some noble treatise on quantum mechanics while actually devouring some far-fetched, gritty polis havers. Since the aforementioned Glasgow trains can get a bit crowded, the fact that a Kindle is easier to page-turn single-handed, while gripping a support rail with the other, only adds to the attraction.

But who'd want to read a book on a phone screen? Not me, not until, on a family trip to London, I found myself wide awake in a darkened hotel room, bored and aware that nobody else would surface for a couple of hours unless I put a light on, in which case I'd be telt. I succumbed to downloading my latest ebook and reading below the covers.

I love it when people recommend books to me. I can research them, decide if I want to try them out and, if so, either download, borrow from the library or buy the work. Contrast this with the awkward situation where someone, unbidden, lends me a book. I almost always wish at the time that they hadn't. They are handing me an obligation. I feel that it is only fair to make it next on my list, even if I'm in the mood for some lightweight nonsense. Once I commit to a book, I rarely fail to finish it, even Maf the Dog, which repeatedly taunted me with philosophical and literary references beyond the scope of my education. Bought that one myself, though.

And yet, when former Skoda car pool member Father Ted handed me three novels of the sort I would not normally pick off the shelf, I went on to find all of them worth reading. Had my grandfather, decades ago, not parted with his Penguin copy of The Thirty-Nine Steps, saying, "Here's a guid story son," I'd never have discovered Buchan and, through him, Stevenson, Hogg and goodness knows who else still to come.

Now, if you haven't read it, seek out And the Land Lay Still by James Robertson. Like the best books, I wasn't the same when I came out of it as when I went in. I'm not lending you my copy, though, despite the fact that it's a real paper one.

Gregor Steele will never use an induction loop mp3 player kit.

Gregor Steele, Scottish Schools Equipment Research Centre.

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