Writing competitions are funny things. For a start, the prizes vary wildly.
Sometimes you’re competing for the glory of the award and the respect of your peers, sometimes they give you electronic gadgets.
Happily, I had some experience with the latter recently when I won an iPad, courtesy of the Massey Ferguson Agricultural Journalism awards (big thanks to them, this is the winning feature if you’re interested).
Being someone who is a little disconcerted by anything smaller than my laptop, it was a thorny transition.
I lifted it out of the box and stared at it suspiciously.
“What does it do?” I asked my husband.
And my husband, with his uncanny ability to identify and exploit my weaknesses, swiftly answered: “Well for one thing, you can read on it.”
And that, as they say, was that.
E-books were my gateway drug into the Apple cult.
At least initially….
I immediately went on Amazon and bought three e-books in quick succession. All three were from authors I loved, and one was the latest in a series that I had hugely enjoyed.
In other words, they were all pretty much a sure thing. I knew I’d like these books.
But then I didn’t.
I blamed the books at first (sorry books) but it then occurred to me: What if the reason wasn’t the books, but the way I was reading them?
Of course, there’s no way of knowing for certain (unless I buy the paperbacks and do some sort of controlled test) but my theory is that there’s something tiring about reading on a screen, and something too strange about pressing a button rather than flicking a page.
I went back to books. Proper books. Books that make a satisfying swoosh as you turn the page, books that have creased spines, books that lie around the house and trip up the dog.
And it turns out I’m not alone.
The popularity of e-readers are in rapid decline. When the technology first appeared, publishers flew into a doomsday-style frenzy but their dire predictions haven’t been realised.
People are going back to books in droves.
According to Pew Research, just 19% of adults in the US own an e-reader. That’s a big slide from 2014 when 32% had them.
In 2015, UK retailer Waterstones announced that it would stop selling Kindles and reclaim that display space for hardbacks and paperbacks instead.
I like being part of a trend as much as the next human, but I don’t want e-readers to fall out of the market completely.
The iPad has opened my eyes to their potential and I’ll still be using mine – just not exclusively.
Given that I’m an expat in the Caribbean (where there isn’t a great selection of bookshops) and I travel frequently, the e-reader is ideal for long trips or getting ahold of that must-have book.
E-books will never replace my slavish devotion to real-world books, but ( much like dark chocolate and red wine) they’re best enjoyed in moderation.