Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Grazable Book

In Alnwick Oxfam this week I picked up an unabridged copy of Boswell's Life of Johnson. At 1000 pages, I'm not sure I'll ever read it cover to cover; but flicking through it in the shop I saw more than enough strange and toothsome snippets to enjoy (and perhaps, as writers do, to pillage in some form or other). It occurs to me that, although I really like my Kindle and have read more e-books in the last month than paper books (at a ratio of somewhere between 4 and 10 to 1), there are some ways of reading that the Kindle just isn't up to yet. One of them is this flicking through, idly looking for inspiration or interest. The e-book's commitment to linearity is tyrannical: it can't cope with the idea of grazing. There isn't even a random page button, like in Wikipedia.

As we were leaving the shop my wife pointed out that there was a copy of The Corner of Arundel Lane and Charles Street, proudly face-out on display on the Oxfam equivalent of the 3 for 2 tables. I not-so-bashfully took it up to the counter and offered to sign it for them, which they graciously accepted. I've seen it in bookshops before, but to see it in a charity shop was a weird delight. (It didn't look well-used, but I couldn't begrudge the previous owner their indifference to it.)


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