I’m reading a book. It’s a wonderful book: Salman Rushdie’s memoir ‘Joseph Anton.’ And the thing itself is beautiful: well-printed and bound with a vellum-feel to the cover underneath the dust-jacket.
But it’s not the sort of book you’d want to lug about in your bag where it would weigh you down and get damaged.
Now I also have an iphone and iPad so I paid another £10 (the hardback was discounted to £14) for the kindle version and over the last couple of weeks I’ve been able to whizz through a few pages when I eat my sandwich or I’ve been stuck somewhere waiting, or travelling by train.
The kindle apps and the notes and highlights I make sync with each other so that I can whip out either device and pick up where I left off. Then when I’ve had the time at home, I can find my place in the hardback (which unfathomably doesn’t sync itself), and sit down to enjoy reading the same words in a beautifully-produced, old-fashioned, paper, card and cloth artefact.
The point is: I want to own physical copies of books, particularly if they’re well-made and well-bound. But I don’t have much spare time and like the convenience of e-books. I don’t understand why paper copies of books don’t come with access to the digital versions. You’ve paid for the right to own a copy of the text after all.
Producers of vinyl records long ago recognised this and most now routinely offer a download code or a CD with the vinyl version. A few years ago I was only buying three or four new vinyl records a year because I didn’t have enough time to listen to them properly. Now I buy about 30. I get to know new songs in the car or in my earphones and, when I’m able, I can enjoy the rituals of keeping and cleaning records, listen to the new songs I now know well in proper hi-fi, admire artwork and read liner notes.
New hardback books cost about the same as new vinyl records – around £20. Can anybody explain to me why publishers can’t – or won’t – offer readers a digital version as part of that same price?