Somewhere in a wave of publicity surrounding the prospect of new e-readers from Amazon and UK bookstore Waterstone’s last week, I read an article about how including pictures in e-books will destroy the imagination and ruin the whole point of reading.
While I’m no fan of the e-reader – I spend all day at a PC so enjoy not looking at a screen sometimes – the notion is utter tosh. Real books have had pictures in them for years and those don’t seem to have harmed anyone.
I’ll concede I don’t necessarily want pictures in every work of fiction I read – factual books, fine - but few would argue that the works of Hunter S.Thompson were somehow diminished by the inclusion of Ralph Steadman’s illustrations.
And while I don’t particularly want to read own an e-reader, I certainly can’t deny the benefits the devices offer over traditional books. Most offer access to more titles than your local library could ever wish for, and I can open the door to suggestions of works I might enjoy rather than asking friends for recommendations (though the last tip I received in person directed me to Stieg Larsson’s excellent Millennium Trilogy).
There’s also the ubiquity of the devices. They seem to appeal as much to older readers as tech-savvy twenty somethings, which is a testament to their ease-of-use and non-threatening user interface. Publishers, too, can reap the rewards in the form of lower production costs.
While the pictures don’t diminish the intellectual quality of reading, there is one downside to e-readers (and not just to bookstores). It makes the job of breaking the ice with the good looking guy/girl (whatever your preference) you see reading on the train much harder.