It has long been predicted that traditional books are about to be replaced by little machines on which you can download any novel you fancy. But the technology has never really been up to the job - until now. Here Andrew Marr, who treasures his smelly, beautiful library of real books, spends a month with one of the new gadgets
This is a rather honest appraisal of why e-books and e-paper won't upset bibliophiles but may well change the world from Andrew Marr, a highly-respected political commentator for the BBC (and self confessed 'bibliomaniac').
It's quality is in its understanding; the potential of technology like the Rex Iliad clearly drives the prospect of having entire bookcases in your hand, and he is very balanced in driving home his (and my) absolute love of books, both as fantastically efficient technology in themselves and also as the finest mass-produced luxury object. How many other knick-knacks could possibly contain entire worlds and dreams, histories of empires and of peasants and do so in such a beautifully corporeal way. Marr even advises the manufacturers
'my advice to the makers is to refine the page-turning just a little more, offer a battered blue cloth-bound wallet and, above all, make it smell - just a little musty, please. Or dank. You could offer a choice. '
Ultimately he is 'reluctantly impressed' - knowing that the next time he heaves a box full of holiday reading out to the car he could fit it all in his back pocket. Also the certain knowledge that it will impact enormously on more transient literature and general ephemera is quite noticeable. Eventually you'll never search for the manual that you think you left in the drawer under the sink - it will just be saved on the e-book, along with that pamphlet that you downloaded on gardening in Nova Scotia, the insurance dockets, the latest copy of the TLS, every crossword Araucaria ever penned, and all your notes for the novel you intend to write...