Author Tara West: I Relent, I Want an E-Reader For Xmas

Technophobe author bows to the inevitable and sets aside her paperback

Brussels sprouts used to make me gag. They were like lumpy phlegm scraped from the hankies of hell. I abhorred and refused them, no matter how they were prepared. Soft and slimy or hard and crunchy, these green leafy balls of doom were most unwelcome on my plate. Now, of course, I love them.

Which just goes to show that, given time, one can come round to anything. I didn’t like skinny jeans, Glee, gin, mince pies or purple. These days, I can’t sing along to Barbra Streisand covers performed by impossibly pretty American youths unless I’m wearing purple skinny jeans and washing down a mince pie with a gin fizz.

Hence I’ve changed my mind about e-readers. Yup. Indeed. And I want one for Christmas. Consider this a confession and, I guess, a retraction. The thing about nailing one’s colours to the mast is that when Christmas rolls around, one finds oneself having to scrape and struggle like mad to yank them off again before the shops shut.

I see lots of people reading Kindles and iPads on the train, and while I might feel worthy and earnest and holier than thou with my paperback from the Oxfam bookshop, I do like shiny new things. And iPads are super cute.

Reading is reading, I’ve decided, and I’m open to both electronic and printed books the way I’m open to fish finger sandwiches and scallop ceviche. Each has its place (and for an e-reader, that would be under the tree).

I once posed the question on this very website: who needs e-readers when we have traditional books? But I was younger then. OK, not by much, but humour me.

I confess: I am, hands up, head down, an armchair anarchist. I am not living in an Occupy Belfast tent protesting the evils of big business. Rather, I’m living in a nice three-bedroom house with central heating and two – yes, two – Christmas trees. A little one and a big one.

I can’t whinge about the cynical emptiness of e-readers, and live the way I do. That would be like wanting my Brussels sprout and eating it. It would make me a hypocrite.

So, I’d like an e-reader for crimbo and I take back everything I said. And to assuage my conscience, I’ll think about a time when everyone who enjoys reading owns an e-reader, and Amazon and Apple have to find a new audience to sell to. And then they’ll use their big bucks to convert people who don’t read at all.

We’ll know they’ve succeeded when looters are pictured sprinting away from riots clutching e-readers. There’s a nice warm Christmassy thought for writers everywhere.

Tara West is author of Fodder.