Friday, October 11, 2013

More royal stupidity

But relatively benign this time. Just an old lady complaining about how the world has changed. And – unusually – nothing to do with Charles Windsor.

The queen is apparently very concerned that children are reading ‘too many’ ebooks and ‘not enough’ paper books.

I can certainly see that making books cheaper and easier to distribute, store and carry would harm our nation’s children.  We wouldn’t want our kids to have – in practical terms – a vastly increased choice of reading material because of search and recommendation engines.  Bookshops – at least, the chains – have long been disappointing places, stocking mostly the top X fiction titles and filling the rest of the space with cookery books.  Buying a paper book from Amazon is entirely different.  The choice is as close to infinite as makes no practical difference and there are reviews and recommendations and things-similar and what-people-also-boughts.  Buying ebooks is exactly like that except without the wait or delivery costs. I can certainly see why this would be bad for children.

Worse still, thanks to the Guttenberg Project, we can get classic books that are out of copyright for free.  We wouldn’t want increased access to books for people who couldn’t otherwise afford them, would we?

I understand – I really do – that many people enjoy the format of printed books.  They like the feel. They like the smell. They like it when books are well-used and a bit dog-eared and naturally fall open at favourite places.  They have romantic and nostalgic feelings about reading.  They remember when they were transported to magical worlds as children and for some reason associate that with print technology, rather than the – you know – words and their own imaginations.  I get that and don’t insist that people read e-books.

So it pisses me off when people – especially monarchs – decree that ebooks are bad. They’d prefer to deprive kids of the advantages solely because the books they used to read looked a bit different. 

Needless to say, the queen is also worried about video games.  Perhaps she’d prefer that kids joust instead.

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