By Andrew Moody
Books are rubbish! Not my view but that of the multi-millionaire Austrian-born entrepreneur and scientist Hermann Hauser, a pioneer of the e-reader, who actually used a more vulgar description of German origin.
When he made the remark in an interview I did with him in Cambridge in England more than a decade ago I didn't know quite what he meant.
I actually thought the physical book was quite an efficient tool you could take just about everywhere.
I have been reminded of our discussion after I picked up a copy of English playwright and screenwriter Alan Bennett's latest diaries, Keeping On Keeping On, at London's Heathrow a few weeks ago.
It was one of those airport exclusive softback editions and I have struggled to read it ever since.
Not because of the content. Bennett, who wrote The History Boys which was a Broadway hit and made into a successful film, is as erudite as ever about the events and routine of his life, but of the difficulties involved in reading an actual book.
Reading over a sandwich lunch, the only way I could keep the book open was to weigh one side down with my iPad and the other with my Kindle – perhaps as absurd as it gets.
Most of my reading is now done on a Kindle, which I actually turned to reluctantly some five years after the Hauser encounter.
Its only drawbacks as far as I have experienced is when you forget to charge it or are not allowed to use it by some airlines until the seat belt signs are switched off.
You also take something of a risk if you try and read it in the bath.
I estimate that I read up to 30 percent quicker on an e-reader than with a physical book – mainly because the backlit screen is kinder on slower ageing eyes.
You also can read in the dark – on planes without having to switch on your overhead light and in taxis late at night.
Throughout all this I have remained an avid bibliophile and book collector and very often buy the physical as well as e-version for no real purpose at all (I don't know why booksellers still can't work on the buy one, get the other free principle).
It is not just the clumsiness of the Bennett diaries that brings reading and books to mind but the recent Spring Festival Holiday.
While it is a family occasion for most Chinese people, I instead always head off for a beach somewhere and spend the whole week reading. This year I was sunning myself in Cambodia.
I took the Bennett with me (despite the risk of being charged excess baggage) but all my other reading was on my e-reader.
As for Hauser, he is still trying to take this technology further so what you will end up reading is just a flexible plastic sheet.
If he does bring it to market, will I move on yet again or remain wedded to my ancient Kindle? We shall see.
As a senior correspondent, Andrew Moody has reported not just in China but around the world for China Daily. He has conducted a number of exclusive interviews, including ones recently with former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne in London and the president of Sierra Leone Ernest Bai Koromo in Beijing. He also covered China President Xi Jinping's state visits to both the United Kingdom and to South Africa in 2015.
Before coming to China, Andrew was a well-known journalist in the UK having worked for national newspapers for more than 15 years, including the Mail on Sunday and The Observer.
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