DUNCAN BARKES I’d much rather have the real thing than an electronic book

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When on my travels I see, more and more often, people staring at a piece of hand-held plastic. Once in a while they poke it, before continuing to read the words on the shiny screen in front of them.

This method of enjoying the latest bestseller is growing in popularity, but personally I can’t get to grips with the concept of reading a book on a mini computer screen. For those who do not keep abreast of technology, an e-book is an electronic book. Figures reveal that sales of e-books increased by 366 per cent last year.

I suppose we should still be grateful that books are being read at all in our increasingly dumbed-down world, but I find the idea of an e-book a strangely sterile proposition.

There is something magnificent about a battered old book. Pages turned down when we could not find a bookmark, or swollen as a result of having been dropped in the bath; covers faded and dog-eared from many re-reads – you can pick out books that have been loved from any library line-up as easily as you can read the text of a Janet and John.

Talking of bookmarks, for years I have used anything from old gig tickets to postcards to mark my place. More often than not you find these historical personal nuggets years later when you revisit a book. Such an unexpected pleasure can never be provided by an e-book.

There is also something very impressive about a shelf full of books. One of the first things I do whenever I visit someone’s home is to check out their bookshelves. I think you can tell a lot about a person by their choice of reading matter.

The argument I hear increasingly is that e-books take up no space. Mrs B and I have a similar conversation about my ever-growing CD collection and how she would like to buy me a piece of shoe box-sized kit that records them all and plays them back on command. This would then mean the discs could be disposed of and space created.

My opposition to this crime against humanity is exactly the same as my dislike of e-books: I like to have something solid to hold in my hands. It does not matter if it is a CD cover or a book jacket with some nice reviews on it, I must have something tangible otherwise I feel I am missing out.

I suppose there is one benefit of the e-book, and that’s the space saved when packing to go on holiday. My friend Jan-Jans, not only a well-travelled lady of taste but a voracious reader, swears by her Kindle gadget, which gives her more room in her suitcase for shoes and frocks.

The good news is that while e-books sales increased massively last year, the sales of proper books still outstrips sales of their electronic cousins. And for me it will always be pages to turn that wins the day.

** Come on guys, get your high heels on!

Last year I had the pleasure of launching the first St Wilfrid’s Hospice Hike in High Heels.

This year’s event takes place on Sunday, May 20. There’s still time to sign up and all participating ‘ladies’ get a pie and a pint at the end of their mile-long teeter.

For more info call 01243 755827 or email fundraising@stwh.co.uk

Email Duncan at duncanbarkes@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter: @DuncanBarkes