I travel a lot, not just for work but also for pleasure. Until recently I lived in China eight months of the year so didn’t have access to my book collection. It was also difficult to pick up new reading material. The ‘classics’ (Shakespeare, Bronte, etc) are widely available in the major cities but beyond that, pickings are very slim indeed. Many times in the past I have found myself in that awful (for me) position of… having nothing to read. At which time I resorted to reading anything which had English writing on it. It can be very unfulfilling to read your own luggage labels over and over again!
To avoid such an eventuality I took more books with me than I needed. Still, space and weight restrictions meant I was limited to a handful of paperbacks and a few magazines. This invariably led to a heated internal discussion every autumn about what to take, and what to leave behind. I usually wanted to take things I hadn’t read before, but in doing so you run the risk of ending up with a dud or two.
Books, even paperbacks, are heavy, and take up a lot of space in your luggage. They can also cause other problems. Last year my suitcase was flagged in Shanghai Pu Dong airport, and a stoney-security officer wanted to know why I was carrying so many books. A question to which I could only respond, “Er… I like reading?”
Looking slightly confused, the Chinese security officer carefully leafed through each book in my suitcase. I don’t know exactly what he was looking for. He also found some Cheddar cheese in my luggage, which he took issue with not knowing what it was, and a switchblade knife, which he had no problem with whatsoever.
Books, no. Cheese, definitely not. Concealed knife? Absolutely fine!
Slowly, the solution became obvious. Buy a Kindle. I had been reading ebooks on my laptop for a long time, and had long been impressed by the availability, accessibility and cost-effectiveness of them. The problem with reading off a laptop was practicality and convenience. You can’t read your laptop on the toilet! Well, you can, I guess. But where would you balance it when you are washing your hands? The floor of a Chinese toilet is no place to put an expensive piece of electronic hardware.
So, I recently took the plunge and invested in a Kindle. Then followed a little transferring of files, some internet searches, a spot of downloading (legally, of course!) and within a couple of hours, I was holding virtually my entire book collection in the palm of one hand. Yes, we all prefer actual books, but the truth of the matter is, they are not always practical. And after a while they get smelly.
Kindles are the future.