What’s on Willie Rennie’s Kindle?

There aren’t very many people I know who don’t have a Kindle or some other e-Reader. I have the Kindle App on my iPad but don’t tend to use it very often because it’s not really that comfortable. My main reason for avoiding getting my books in electronic form is because I worry about the effects on bookshops. I could spend a whole day quite happily browsing, picking up various books, admiring the covers, having a sneaky read. There is no greater therapy. What happens to them if we all download our books in the same format? It’s not great for diversity.  I suspect I will have to succumb at some point, though because there simply isn’t enough room in my house to accommodate all my books.

With that in mind, I caught up with Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie who’s loving the Kindle he was given last Christmas. What, I wondered, did he have on it?

It was the name Machiavelli that first caught my eye. Yes, our leader is reading The Prince. Everyone who has an interest in political philosophy has, though, haven’t they?

As you’d expect from the leader of a Liberal Democrat party, John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty is on there.

Willie is a very keen runner and is a regular competitor in the Scottish Coal Carrying Championships. It’s no surprise, then to find to books on not just running, but serious, hardcore running. The first is Born to Run, the account of how Christopher McDougall learned about endurance running from the Tarahumara people in Mexico. The second, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an all night runner  by Dean Kamazes chronicles the author running 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days. I guess leading the Scottish Liberal Democrats must feel like a test of endurance at times – but the indications are from reading these books that you get there in the end and are better for it.

Modern day politics next, former Labour MP’s Chris Mullin’s acclaimed diary, A View from the Foothills is next, and then the book The Coalition Chronicles by Ian Martin. The cover says it’s “satirical, scatological and sexually explicit” so don’t, whatever you do, buy this thinking it’s factual.

I never really saw Willie as much of an Oscar Wilde fan. I love The Importance of Being Earnest but its inclusion on Willie’s list was  surprising. Maybe he’s more literary than I give him credit for.

The final selection was from the series that everyone’s talking about, the first book in  Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy,  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

There’s quite a balanced selection there, from literature to sport to fiction to politics – and the inclusion of a modern satire signifies the ability to laugh at yourself even in the current climate.

When  I go to people’s houses, I invariably look through their bookshelves. I’ve quite enjoyed this 21st century equivalent. Perhaps I shall go and find some more Kindles to inspect…


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Caron

    I agree with you – I succumbed last year when I realised that the costs of shifting all our books on a house move was completely disproportionate (and then they didn’t fit in at the other end requiring several trips to Oxfam). However, you are quite right that it almost certainly spells doom for bookshops….

    However, I was pleased by news that Waterstones were going to team up with Amazon. I think there is a potential business model in which bookshops sell less physical copies but act as the shop window for e-books and receive a commission every time that a e-book is downloaded there. This should be a win-win because Amazon will sell more e-books and those of us who like bookshops can still benefit from their presence. The only problem is that the revenue stream is not likely to be sufficient to compensate for the loss of physical sales so bookshops will probably morph such that they contain lots of books which don’t work well on e-readers (picture books, practical manuals) and expanded cafes. I hope they can manage the transition better than record shops….

  • Allan Heron 23rd May '12 - 4:46pm

    Got a Kindle earlier on this year and love it. A much better device for reading than either a tablet or smartphone. (I’ve tried the Kindle app and it’s ok but not as good an experience).

    I’m now piling books onto my Kindle to read at an unspecified point in the future instead of my bookshelves.

    Just a pity there’s not an easy way to convert existing books into Kindle-friendly formats (like you can easily rip a cd into mp3’s for mobile use).

  • Sadie Smith 23rd May '12 - 6:02pm

    Have the iPad app. Not a lot on it, but the attraction was the ability to enlarge print size.
    And you get things quickly. While others were waiting for the reprint of David Laws book, mine arrived with a wooosh.
    Son in Japan concerned about longevity of ebooks compared with stuff on shelves. And finding English language books in parts of Japan is interesting. So a reason for weight of my parcels to Japan. If he is right….anyway I hate throwing books away, more so since I did a stint in Ozfam!

  • Keith Browning 23rd May '12 - 6:52pm

    I don’t see the connection between the stuff on a Kindle and a book. One carries information and the other is something to treasure, dip in and out of, skim, decorate the room, bring back memories and much much more. Books last hundreds of years but stuff on a Kindle is possibly read once and then lost for ever.

    Has the world been taken over by boring organised technos? Big Brother has taken over your lives through the back door. Yes I did use to live in that world. I ditched it when I retired. Real life is so much more fun.

    Books and Kindles – no comparison.

  • Stuart Mitchell 23rd May '12 - 7:39pm

    Agree with Keith. Reading a book on Kindle is the same kind of watered-down, unsatisfactory experience as listening to music that’s been converted to mp3. I can see why they’re popular but it’s not for me.

  • I wish you could donate second hand kindle books to charity shops, and buy them that way. I rarely pay more than £3 for a novel, and the money goes to a good cause, and I donate the book back afterwards as well. I don’t think I can do that with a Kindle. Maybe govt should legislate to make that an option?

  • I agree with Keith and Stuart.

  • Tim – a very good point although implementation might be difficult. One of the problems with the Kindle is that you cannot pass on books (and neither can I buy a book for someone). It may well require legislation because there is little in it commercially for Amazon if there is an active second-hand market in Kindle titles….

    Actually, having said that – there might be. Amazon could set up a second-hand market and allow people to either earn money by selling them or donating them to charities of their choice whereupon Amazon would list them and take a cut. Similarly, the charities could have a second-hand e-book corner……where you could download stuff. If I ran a big charity, I might approach Amazon with this idea!

  • Allan Heron 24th May '12 - 2:27pm

    Keith – I understand what you’re saying but as someone with bookshelves heaving with books (and similar in relation to CDs/Vinyl) there are those that you know you’d want to keep in physical form for the reason you describe.

    But for every one of these there’s probably something like five that simply having it in any form to read is more than sufficient. There will be books coming along that I’ll still absolutely want to have cluttering up my bookshelves but I’ve got no qualms in using the Kindle format for any of the others. Indeed, it might even encourage me to buy more if the prices are reasonable as there’s no storage overhead. (e.g just this very lunchtime picked up one of Andrew Marr’s books for £0.99)

  • I suspect that there is no direct equivalence between what is on someone’s Kindle and what is (used to be) on their bookshelves. Some people certainly displayed books for show, to demonstrate how well-read they were or what good taste they had, but normally you can look at someone’s bookshelves and be able to tell whether this is a collection that is telling a truth about their owner. The same applies to music, particularly in the pre-CD era when you could tell which albums meant a lot to someone by their condition. Looking at a list of titles someone has on their iPod or Kindle is a much shallower indication of their meaning to the individual.

  • Mark G: exactly – you could resell them yourself, or give them to Oxfam etc to resell. In the US you can lend someone a book from your kindle for 2 weeks – you can’t access it for that time. So it is not technically difficult to have a deletion programme.

  • daft h'a'porth 24th May '12 - 11:44pm

    While we’re on the subject of ebooks, though, how is the abolition of VAT on ebooks going? Not that it isn’t entertaining watching Amazon users enrich the duchy of Luxembourg, but…

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