In My Wildest Dreams: Adventures in Children's Fiction

You can't gift an ebook!

I have made up my mind. I prefer to read books.

ebooks are a convenience like supermarkets. Books are a delicatessen. I was on my way to this conclusion when I started thinking about reading Sarah Dunant's Blood & Beauty, her novel about the Borgias and Renaissance Italy. I couldn't talk myself into downloading it, even though it was cheaper than the hardback. The subject matter didn't seem to sit well with the e-format.

ebook and Renaissance art? ebook and rich colour and period detail? Even though I am a technophile I couldn't imagine an electronic alliance between the Kindle and the Borgias that would work, at least not for very long. The book then is the book of choice. I was tempted to say format, but the term doesn't really describe the nature of a book.

Then comes the gift, through the post from my niece in Edinburgh, quite unexpectedly - Blood & Beauty, signed by Sarah Dunant. A complete and giddying surprise. The book is sumptuous, 526 pages of rich detail. The cover has a velvet feel. It sits well in the hand, weighty but not too heavy.

I have been a long time admirer of Sarah Dunant. Twenty or so years ago, I spent a weekend with my friend Rob attending a writing workshop in Stroud library with Sarah Dunant and her friend Gillian Slovo. That moment in time still resonates, not just because I was slightly star struck, but because our tutors turned out not to be the media types from the television that we might have imagined, but good, honest, down to earth people willing to give their time and experience for very little financial reward. They were kind and thoughtful - very much like my niece, who took the trouble to queue for the book without being prompted and post it to me the following day.

The book is not the gift, so much as the thought and effort that went into making it. You just can give someone a Kindle as a present, but you can never give someone an ebook. It just won't work. It has no resonance.

I am not against ebooks; I love them - the convenience, the fact that out of print books can be easily revived, that self-publication (though not self-publicity) is easy. I love ebooks, but not all the time. I still stick with my view that for a small additional cost all books should be available with an ebook download code.

For now at least, the gift of writing is best presented between cardboard covers.