Last month I had a birthday. The occasion leaves me well and truly within the realms of 'middle aged' – but I was fortunate enough to receive one of them new-fangled things that all the cool kids are calling a 'Kindle'.
Before then, I was very pro-ebook but reluctant to commit to a device that didn't do anything else. I'd been reading on my iPod Touch for the past couple of years, but was wary of forking out for something that only displayed ebooks, especially as the iPod Touch served the purpose very well, in addition to getting on the internet, playing music and providing handy apps.
I was, however, grateful to receive the Kindle, and its usefulness quickly became apparent. I can email academic papers to it rather than having to print them off and have loads of bits of A4 floating around the house at the mercy of a 4-year-old boy and a Staffordshire bull terrier. So far, I've used the Kindle as a PDF-reader rather than a book reader, and for that purpose it's brilliant. I can highlight bits and add comments, and the Kindle lets me view all these highlights in one go, which makes it a great way of summarising a document.
There are some things I'm not so keen on – I find it hard to adjust to the lack of backlighting, and haven't yet found a contrast setting that's as clear as a paper book in ordinary light. It all just seems very grey. Although the Kindle is supposed to be ideal for reading in direct sunshine, well... I live in England, so that's not really an issue. The experimental web browser is well... experimental, (assuming 'experimental' is a synonym for 'crap'). And using arrow keys to tap out a search in the Kindle store is so tedious that I haven't actually bought anything. But overall, I like not having to take print-outs on the train, and another advantage is that my young son doesn't try to commandeer it – he gets bored with the fact that the touch-screen inexplicably doesn't work.
I still haven't read an actual book on it, but I was getting along well with the Kindle until the other day, when I discovered I had been committing a terrible offence that probably dates back to the time of King Alfred or someone. I have been reading my Kindle in the bath.
I had no idea this was a Bad Thing. But when idly looking online for other people's opinions I found out that the phrase 'and you can't read it in the bath!' (presumably accompanied by a hoik of the bosom and a catsbum expression) is the last word in arguments against e-readers.
Why the heck can't you read a Kindle in the bath? If you're worried about dropping it – well, don't bloody drop it then! It's not as if we all went around chucking printed books willy-nilly into baths before Kindles came along. I'm not really bothered about steam getting into it, but for those who are, I'm sure clear plastic bags aren't that difficult to find these days. It's still easier than reading a weighty hardback.
Now that I've said this, there is of course the chance that irony will rise to the challenge and make me drop the Kindle into the water. Luckily I'm one step ahead of that possibility – to cheer myself up in the event of it happening, I've already started saving for an iPad.