The comedian Louis CK has a routine about how everything is amazing, and no-one is happy. It’s a rant about how quickly we become used to the technological marvels that permeate our society, and how quickly we take them for granted. When the high-speed internet on our long-distance flight goes wrong, our sense of entitlement to something that we didn’t even know existed 10 minutes before kicks in.
Everything is amazing, and no-one’s happy.
Since hearing that routine, I’ve tried to keep an eye out for these amazing moments that we take for granted. When we flew to Australia to watch the Ashes in December 2010, and it took a gruelling 24 hours, I thought about the sea voyages that the cricket teams of the 1900s took between Australia and England – voyages that took well over a month. When I was struggling with the 3G signal on my phone in Melbourne, I thought about how I was using a pocket-sized computer to access a world-wide information network that was reaching out to the other side of the planet to programme in a recording on my satellite TV box of the highlights of the match that I’d just watched in Melbourne. If it took a couple of attempts, so be it!
Today’s “everything’s amazing” moment came when I was on the bus coming back from doing a bit of shopping in the centre of Leicester. The bus got stuck in traffic just outside the Highcross shopping centre for about 20 minutes, so I pulled out my phone, fired up the Kindle app, downloaded the book I’m currently reading (The Shining Girls, by Lauren Beukes) and carried on reading from where I’d left off the previous evening – my Kindle had uploaded my latest page read to Amazon’s servers, so I didn’t even have to flick through to find my place: the book automatically opened right where I’d left it.
It was a good reminder for me of the benefits of ebooks at a time when I’m having to give away dozens upon dozens of my old paper books. It’s been a bit of a wrench at times, made slightly more bearable when people in the office have taken them off my hands – it feels less like I’m abandoning my books if I’ve found them a new home.
But as amazing as ebooks are, my book giveaway has highlighted one way in which they’re completely lacking – when I’ve finished with a paper book, when I need to make some space, I can give it to someone else, and that person can enjoy it, and perhaps pass it on to someone else. You can’t do that with an ebook. You can’t say “this ebook is amazing, here, read it” to a friend.
That’s right. Ebooks are amazing, and I’m still not happy. Sorry, Louis.