I am a Kindle addict. I love the immediacy of being able to hear about a book on a radio show, or reading a review online, and immediately seeing that book on my Kindle with just a couple of clicks. The Kindle makes it easy to get my hands on any book that I want immediately.
But there is also a practical need for me to use the Kindle. I read a lot compared to most people I know, several books a week, and being a Brit living in Brazil there is a lack of high quality English literature in the local shops. My local bookstore does actually have quite a good English section, but it is dominated by high culture, such as Shakespeare, and the latest '50 shades' paperbacks with not much in-between.
So I have not actually been to a bookstore to buy books for a long time. I download and read without ever stopping by to browse in person. However, this week I am visiting London and I visited the Slightly Foxed bookstore in Gloucester Road last night for a book launch.
The launch party was for The Corbyn Colouring book (Old St Publishing) by James Nunn. It's an adult colouring book featuring the Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn in a variety of poses that can be coloured in by the reader - preferably in red I presume. James gave a funny talk about his book and I bought a few copies. It turns out that we have a mutual friend in Rio proving that this really is a small world.
But I was thinking about this bookstore visit today. I noticed two things about the experience that I had forgotten about after years of only ever reading e-books.
1. There is a delightfully visceral experience with real books. I enjoyed browsing and picking up so many books that I spent far more cash than I had intended to. It was enjoyable to just spend some time looking at the books and remembering how a bookstore smells of old ink and paper.
2. The team in the bookstore were incredibly knowledgeable about the books I had selected. As I was paying for my books, the guy on the till was telling me about one author and then the background story to one of the other books and how it was being written. This was a fantastic experience - a shared enthusiasm for the same books.
Not only have I been reminded that I shouldn't just buy for my Kindle alone, I have been reminded that there is an intense customer experience available in bookstores that I had almost forgotten about. It's all about that shared love of books.
In an ideal world, publishers should give the e-book free to customers who pay for a physical book - allowing customers the convenience of the Kindle with the beauty of the real book, but I guess this is not likely.
In the meantime, I guess I'm going to be picking up a few more "real" books thanks to the reminder I got this week courtesy of Jeremy Corbyn. Power to the people!