Thursday, 9 January 2014

Reading: The Next Generation

Like any aspiring poet I love books. Real books. The ones with spines and pages which discolour over time. The ones given as gifts with their personalised messages. The ones carrying signatures of the writers/poets I’ve met.

Within our tiny basement flat these books own a large percentage of the available space: crammed on bookcases, double stacked on shelves, piled on top of wardrobes and tucked into nooks. There are designated areas for poetry, fiction, art and the academic; hundreds of books decorating our home and filling it with words, imagination, knowledge, beauty and inspiration.

When I was little, after visiting a National Trust property, I dreamed of a house with a library, with bookcases so tall I’d require a ladder like Belle’s (from Beauty and the Beast) to reach the upper shelves. Despite neither of these things materialising the books did. They’ve accumulated in great numbers over the years, and I can chart some of the most significant times in my life by simply looking at the books around me. Therefore, the idea of storing away future markers inside a shiny electronic ‘book’ has never really appealed.

A few years ago when e-readers started to appear, and quickly became a must-have gadget for any avid reader, I stood strong. In fact I was almost Luddite in my thoughts towards them, refusing to own one and ranting that they could never substitute a proper book. However, I’ve finally relented and now find myself in the midst of books in 21st century format.

I wish I could say I absolutely hate my Kindle Fire, to say otherwise sort of feels like I’m cheating on the paperback. But I’ve (perhaps a little too speedily) fallen in love with this shiny rectangle. I can buy books without worrying about where to store them. I can read in the dark, and even change from white ‘paper’ to black ‘paper’. With just a single press on a word I can look up its dictionary definition, I can highlight without vandalising, make notes and store interesting quotes. I don’t need a makeshift Rizla bookmark because it remembers my page, and can even calculate my reading speed.

 I’m currently reading The Passage by Justin Cronin – in paperback form its 1008 pages means it has a 6cm spine and weighs over 700 grams, however, in e-book form this book’s difficult-to-hold size is reduced to the dimensions (186 X 128 X 9.0mm) and weight (303 grams) of my Kindle: so light and manageable I can hold it comfortably with one hand.

So, I guess you could say this traditional reader has been converted, but not completely…  I will never get rid of the books I currently own and I won’t stop purchasing real books; I’ve already vowed to only buy poetry in hardback and paperback form. And while the new way of reading has its advantages, the old way will always have its place - no amount of free e-books will ever fill me with the same excitement as a second-hand bookshop (however hard they are getting to find).

Thanking you for reading,



Colin Davies said...

I am a lover of the new ebook revolution however,I also dream of having a library, and I also adore the smell of old books.

I think there is room enough in our lives for both.

Nice post, thank you.

Ashley R Lister said...

I've got a tablet. It reads kindle books and it holds a modest library of academic titles so I can research at a moment's notice. But it's not quite the same as that feel of paper.

The ebook revolution is wonderful in many regards and I support it fully. I don't really like the idea that a single capitalist company like Amazon has "moral" control over global reading permissions, but I'm prepared to overlook that small detail because I like the convenience and accessibility of electronic text.

Yet, having said that, I'd still fight for every one of the paperback, softback or hardback titles currently sitting in my office.