I know, I know. “You miss the smell of paper” “You like to hold the book” “It’s just not the same experience”. I get this.
However. Aside from the fact that you can have hundreds of books in your pocket, there’s one big advantage of the e-book reader. Nobody around you know what you’re reading. All they see is a black rectangular device in your hands. You can sit on the Tube, and read 50 shades of grey, The Communist Manifesto, the Bible, or the manual for your vacuum cleaner. They can’t know, and they can’t judge you.
I came to this realization only lately. Someone recommended an excellent book on a soldier’s experience on the Eastern Front. Since I hold an immense interest in understanding that conflict, and especially the mindset of people who took part in it, it was a great opportunity to read a very frank, honest recollection of a German soldier. It’s a great book to read to remind us what can happen when you brain-wash entire generations to believe they are above everyone else. The author does not try to white-wash Nazi Germany’s crimes of launching that war, and moreover, he does not shy away from talking about his own behaviour, his own actions. (Usually, when you read German generals recollections, you have this feeling the struggle on the Eastern Front was some sort of a boy scout trip with tanks.) He tells us when he ran away from an engagement, he tells us when he burns down the house of the villagers with whom he was lodged with for weeks, and with whom he had developed a sort of friendship, when he left starving people die (OK, he was starving, too), when he shot soldiers who were defenceless. The only problem: the book’s title was “Through hell for Hitler”, and the cover sported an enormous Nazi flag -the red one with the white circle and swastika in the middle. This would be an issue everywhere, but to top it up, I live in an area where there’s a large Orthodox Jewish community. It’s hardly a place where you want to sport symbols like that. You cannot go around explaining everyone that this is not a Neo-Nazi literature: just the opposite… so I kept the book at home, and read it in a shameful seclusion.
This is why an e-book reader is useful. You can get your historical perspective without inadvertently offending everyone.