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A couple of weeks ago I received the latest issue of the magazine of the Society of Young Publishers and there, almost at the end, I found an article on the joys and sorrows of ebook readers. I have to admit, I had been thinking of buying one for a couple of months, but I just couldn’t make a decision. There were at least ten different devices on the market, all with different features: touch, no touch, color or simple ink, one that would allow me to be able to pay my rent or one that would let me call my mom for an emergency cash injection. I was in a digital limbo.
Then my father called me and said he was coming to London for work, and could he stay at my place?
So he arrived on a rainy Tuesday and we went for dinner at a nice restaurant with Wi-Fi, and there I saw it: The Tablet. To make a long story short I persuaded him I would borrow it just for the week he would be in town. Finally, there I was, with a chance to enter the digital era and save my bookshelves from cracking. I downloaded every free ebook I could find and started reading Wuthering Heights. I hope Bronte’’s ghost will not haunt me forever if I say that I had never read it before.
I read about 10 pages and I loved it, but I just couldn’t continue. I was confused. There in my bed with my tea on my side, there were no pages, nothing that my brain could make sense of. Okay, maybe it’s just me. I am a bit of a control freak but I need to know I am not missing pages (I know this probably sounds mad), and I found myself looking at the page numbers every two seconds. I ended up just going through the whole book to be sure that I downloaded it correctly and that I would not find myself at midnight trying to rob a bookshop here in Stratford because I have to finish the book and I can’t download a good copy.
It was an unsettling experience. I missed the spilling of my tea all over my books because I can’t keep the book open with just one hand and my cup won’t stay in equilibrium on my legs. I missed the smell that new books have and the way I don’t have to worry about throwing them on the armchair because it could break.
In the end, I kept the Tablet hostage. I’m not sure my dad will see it any time soon. I mean, it was the first book I ever read digitally and I ought to give it another go. What book lover would I be if I ignored this big chunk of the market? What if in 20 years printed books are rare and there are no bookshops to rob if I don’t like to read on an eReader?
So I am going to go finish Wuthering Heights now, paper version with tea stains on its lovely perfumed cover. There will be time to get used to the digital copies – at least, I hope.
Emily Cleaver is Litro's Online Editor. She is passionate about short stories and writes, reads and reviews them. Her own stories have been published in the London Lies anthology from Arachne Press, Paraxis, .Cent, The Mechanics’ Institute Review, One Eye Grey, and Smoke magazines, performed to audiences at Liars League, Stand Up Tragedy, WritLOUD, Tales of the Decongested and Spark London and broadcasted on Resonance FM and Pagan Radio. As a former manager of one of London’s oldest second-hand bookshops, she also blogs about old and obscure books. You can read her tiny true dramas about working in a secondhand bookshop at smallplays.com and see more of her writing at emilycleaver.net.