Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Tales from Underground: the Death of the Book?. Post No 1.

Being the sort of itinerant type who spends most of the day traipsing around London with my belongings in a red and white spotted handkerchief on a stick, I do seem to spend large amounts of time either on the tube or on the bus. There's been a lot of fuss about e-readers, for obvious reasons, so I thought I might see what I see people reading on the tube. It might also reflect people's reading habits (for better or worse...)

Yesterday, at about ten to ten in the morning, on an eastbound Hammersmith and City line (whose elegant, salmony pink I particularly enjoy), an older woman in a red jacket who'd earlier refused my seat sat down next to me and started in on .... The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I thought about wrenching it from her grasp, but thought that might upset the relative calm of a very bookish carriage - there were at least four others reading actual books, although I couldn't see the titles, apart from one chap who was deep in the Millennium trilogy. So far, so bestseller.

Later, as the clock eased its way towards cocktail time, on the brash, yellow Circle line (no longer a Circle, since its recent doglegging. It's like a tart that promises and doesn't deliver) to Sloane Square, again five readers of real books: the inevitable Stieg Larsson, and, hearteningly, a pretty young hipster type reading a paperback copy of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. There was also a middle-aged Asian man in a leather jacket, reading his Koran, his lips moving.

Just before supper, again on the Circle line (to whom I return like a spurned lover, again and again), I saw my first e-reader. The woman was was reading it looked very cross indeed.

So, in my entirely scientific investigation so far, that's

Stiegg Larsson 2
Khaled Hosseini 1
David Mitchell 1
The Koran 1
Ereader 1.

In your face electronic books! Suck on that Mr Kindle!

I may speak prematurely, but hey... watch this space. If you see a strange man peering at your book cover, it's probably me...

(As an addendum, I should note that I was reading The Transformation of Bartholomeo Fortuno by Ellen Bryson, a debut novel about the World's Thinnest Man and his love for a Bearded Lady.)

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