Sense and Sensuousness

With the advent of digital books and reading devices, many avid readers lamented the loss of the sensuous pleasures of reading: the bowed boards of old hardcovers; the feel of aging paper between the fingers; their fragrance of ruin. (For a lovely description of these effects, see the first paragraph of AS Byatt’s Possession.) These are indeed lost, or at least replaced with a new pleasure: the sleekness of plastic and the gentle clack of tiny keys. In some ways the loss is grievous and irretrievable, but in others, it is a virtue. If, like me, you’re seduced by the covers of new books – by their design and texture, the éclat they acquire from media exposure – the e-reader imposes some much-needed rigour to the reading diet. I’m not remotely tempted to download new and fashionable books on the strength of their glossy finish. Whereas, unleashed in Borders, I could easily spend a small fortune on books that will forever unfinished adorn my coffee table.