Digital convenience vs analogue romance

When I got my first iPod, I downloaded all my CDs onto my computer and sold the discs on Amazon.

Last week I got rid of all my DVD boxes and put the discs into two enormous zip up thingies. If I could download them all onto a hard drive as easily as I added the CDs, I would, and would then get rid of the annoying disc containers.

Now all I’m left with is books, but as far as I’m concerned, books are different. They serve two purposes: you can read them, and they look great on a shelf (they also show people how darned clever you are because they can see RIGHT BEFORE THEIR EYES that you have read War and Peace, or Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less). So there’s no way I’d get rid of them, right?

Well, maybe.

I don’t think I’d ever throw them away (I can’t download them onto a digital device), but I have to say that its much less likely that I’ll be adding to them. You see, I now have an iPad, and find reading from it to be much easier and more enjoyable than trying to hold a book up and turn its pages, particularly if I’m doing something else (stroking my new kitten, eating an artichoke, picking my nose etc.). It’s also wonderfully simple and easy to buy a book instantly, and they’re often cheaper than the analogue variety.

I also accepted the fact that I rarely read a book twice. For example, No Logo has been sitting on my shelf since I read it a decade ago. Its assertions and information were starkly relevant in 2001, but are now virtually meaningless, existing in a world that they themselves changed beyond recognition. There is little point in reading No Logo now, but it was a sort of zeitgeisty classic of its time, and there’s something about having it around that feels right (perhaps I am clinging to the sad semblance of credibility that owning a copy in 2001 gave me).

So with that in mind I can’t see myself buying many physical books in future. I’ve just downloaded One Day by David Nicholls, a book I would definitely have bought in analogue form in the past. I suppose I’ll then read it and store it in my iBooks in case my wife or kids want to check it out, then forget about it, relegating its existence to a postage stamp-sized representation of its cover that I will never open again.

I suppose some of you are now reading this swearing that you will never let anything so vulgar and unromantic happen to you, and perhaps you’re right, but this is the direction in which the world is heading. Electronic books make sense in lots of ways (I haven’t even mentioned how much an arse it is to carry a hardback around), so storing millions of pages on one small device could well be the future for most of us. Is that a shame? Maybe, but what you lose in fusty bits of paper, you make up for in convenience, value and practicality, not to mention the benefits to the environment.

Having said all that, though, I must admit to harbouring an analogue fantasy: when my kids are old enough not mess it up, I really want to get a record player and start a collection of my favourite albums: totally impractical, pointlessly expensive and utterly unnecessary.

I can’t wait.