I remember seeing ‘Thunderball’ for the first time and thinking, ‘Oh My God, the jet pack is finally here!’
In those days, Cubby Broccoli’s 007 movies only showcased stunts and devices that actually existed, which was why they were so thrilling. By the time Bond was riding tidal waves and driving through ice palaces it was all so ho-hum, but for a brief moment the future arrived and did not disappoint.
As a child I had fantasised about someone inventing a box that could hold movies inside it, so that you could carry them in your pocket. And flat TV screens. It took the future forever to arrive after that.
So when they invented the Kindle, and I looked at this chunky piece of grey plastic that appeared to have been sold in the GUM department store some time before Trotsky got whacked with an ice pick, I thought ‘Dear God, is this the best the future can manage?’ In a few short months I was eating my words. I had been got at. So, now that I’m on my third electronic reading device, I thought it was time for a few observations.
1. The proofreading on the Kindle is utterly appalling. So many texts are peppered with misspellings that I’m now used to them and don’t even get annoyed by the random gaps, digits and ampersands that pop up all over the place.
2. My reading rate has risen dramatically – at any one time I am reading at least four books simultaneously, and reading at least six short story collections.
3. My purchasing of paperbacks has jumped sharply. If I like a book a lot, I need to own it in paper form as a permanent item.
4. I have started reading books that aren’t published by the big houses. I’m currently reading ‘The Fall of the House of Murdoch’ by Peter Jukes, published online by Unbound, and it’s as good – if not better – than anything published by a major house. It’s also mistake-free.
5. I nearly always have the Kindle on me. There’s a neoprene socklike sleeve you can fit it into that beats those naff faux-book covers they try to flog you.
6. I’m concentrating on the words rather than letting the book’s design influence me, and I’m reading a lot of rare books I would not have touched with a bargepole before. Anstey’s ‘The Brass Bottle’, anyone?
7. I don’t miss pictures, but when they ameliorate the text (as in ‘The Lost City of Z’) I buy the paperback too.
8. I have taken to grazing for Kindle titles in bookstores and surreptitiously making notes as I go around to purchase them online later. But I still usually come out of the shop with a new book.
9. My actual reading speed has jumped. I think it’s to do with the practice of reading in more places, more continuously, and varying type size in different lighting conditions. My 87 year-old mother now uses one, too.
10. I realise there are downsides – the arthritic navigation, the accidental turning of pages and the ridiculous situation wherein you cannot use them until the plane is in the air – but these don’t matter compared to the most important thing, the reading experience. Another sign that the Kindle is here to stay is that the French hate them. Kindle sales in France are almost non-existent.
Now if Apple had only designed an e-reader. Bond never spotted that coming, did he?