Tuesday, 1 June 2010

On Books

"Don't worry dear friends, you're safe here."

As you may have guessed from my tedious book-related posts, I'm quite the bibliophile, as, I believe, are most bloggers. I wonder though, whether most bloggers are as technophobic as I am? I am never the first to embrace new gadgets or the latest technology - I generally come limping along a couple of years after the rest. It's not that I'm resistant to change, or progress. I don't consider myself stuck in the past. I'm just very good at making do with what I know.

One technological advancement that fills me with a crippling fear is the e-reader. My feelings towards this piece of apparatus have reached dangerous levels. If I see one on my journey to work I get angry. Angry. I am that ridiculous. I'll be honest, I hate them. I will now rush to point out that I do understand the wisdom behind them and don't judge the owner of the device - I acknowledge, wholeheartedly, that this is my issue. It's not you, Mr E. Reader - it's me. For someone who travels a lot I imagine they are a godsend. All those words on such a handy device, who wouldn't love it? Me. That's who. I can't bring myself to turn my back on the old, trusted way of reading. I know books aren't perfect - as an industry publishing is probably up there with the least environmentally friendly. And some books are the most inconvenient things in the world - the one I'm reading now is a hefty hardback that, no matter how I position it in the Man Bag, manages to dig a corner into my thigh. But I love them despite these faults. I love the covers, the crack of a spine, the way they gather dust on the shelf. I LOVE THEM.

This rant came about thanks to Sky 1's adaptation of Terry Pratchett's 'Going Postal'. I've never read any of the Discworld books, despite seeing them in every bookshop I've ever been in. This one revolves around the quaint, old-fashioned post office struggling to survive against a newer, faster technology called the Clacks. The parallels with the real postal service and the advent of the internet and e-mail are clear, and they left me with a really depressing thought. I imagined a little postman, in the 80s, sorting out his letters for delivery - love letters, job offers, chain letters - letters from pen-pals who have never met, from distant relatives and angry constituents. Madonna's getting into her groove on the radio and he's thinking about rumours of a new technology that would remove almost all need for his services. He underestimates it - it doesn't see how it can challenge the status quo. How wrong. How wrong Mr Postman! Flash forward twenty years and he's delivering junk mail and credit card bills.

I know this is silly; it didn't happen quite like that and there is and always will be a need for the postal service. But will books die out? Am I being ignorant in refusing to embrace the e-reader? Will I find myself, in a few years' time, with no books to buy?

I stress that if any of you have e-readers, I'd never judge you for it. If anything, I'm a little jealous. Jealous that you've been able to let go when I'm destined to stand out like...like a man listening to a cassette, on a walkman in a room full of people with I-Pods.


  1. I don't have one. But I am planning on getting one before I leave for Chile, assuming I get accepted into the program I want. And there are two reasons: I have way too many books, I'll never be able to take them all with me when I'm trekking about South America. And two, because I'll easily be able to buy books in English. Which I'm a fan of because I don't speak Spanish.

    I'm really torn, though, because I love the smell of books, the feel of them, and the way they always take up all the room and make it impossible to find anything else in my Woman Bag (read: purse).

    Also, I've heard that a lot of the larger bookstore chains are suffering. But smaller, more local bookstores (especially those that sell used) have seen improved business in the recession, which leads me to believe that we're not the only ones who love the physical attributes of a good book.

  2. I don't hate those e-readers and I won't say I'll never get one... but I don't get it. I just don't get it.

    I have way too many books. Some I love and some I like and some I don't really care for; but i have a hoarder's need to keep them anyway. This doesn't hold me in good stead for when I leave. I have nowhere to ship boxes of books too. Oh but believe me, if I did... I would. I'd send them all to a place where there'd be safe...waiting for me to come back and run a finger down their spines and smooth their jackets and riffle through them and smell the words up into my soul.

    But, I don't. So I tend to try and stuff as many as I can into my luggage (read: backpack) and take them to Abu Dhabi on as many trips back as I can. My parents won't give my books away when they leave. They're as terrible as I am.

    I like the heavy weight of a book in my hand. It's comforting. I like waking up to print on my cheek from falling asleep whilst reading. I like spending my Sundays cross-legged on the floor of a dusty third-hand bookstore, deciphering titles with faded gold lettering. I like finishing a book whilst waiting for the plane, and stumbling upon something wonderful in the airport bookstore. I like holding a present and knowing that it's a book- the excitement is almost palpable because I can't wait to see which one it is. I love sticking my nose into the top of books- new, old, ancient- and breathing in that gorgeous book-smell...

    Yeah. I don't know if I could do those e-reader things. Nothing beats the feeling of skimming my index finger along a book's spine.

  3. @ jaminicole - buying books in English while abroad is something I've never even considered. A very good point and another string to add to the e-reader's bow. Poor books, they have no chance, do they? :'(

    @ epitaph for a heart - I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one to buy book after book when I've really got no room. And I completely agree with finishing books at the airport - that's a great feeling.

    Perhaps another reason I have a particular problem with them is that I work in publishing, and am scared for the future? I think this is possible - I am the 80s postman.

  4. I have an ipod but those e-readers will never make me green with envy for those who have it. I still love the traditional way of reading. Don't it feel good to smell the woody scent of the pages and it's rough texture caressing your fingers?

    Technology is good but i hate how it killed almost all the things we love to do traditionally. I will still prefer a love letter handed by a postman.

    Great post! Thumbs up!

  5. i am also not loving e-readers! ugh! especially after reading this sad article =( http://www.swisster.ch/news/business/english-used-book-store-reaches-final-chapter.html

    i hope this is not a coming trend or i will be one bitter angry old lady

  6. I don't have e-readers. But I'm really not a techie person. I think I'd still prefer books though even if I were techie.

  7. I think e-readers are ridiculous. They will never ever beat a book. Nothing makes me happier than the look of a well-thumbed novel.


  8. I agree,though I sure wouldn't rip it off their hands or something I sure go ^&*$#@% in my head.Ebook readers are so...clinical,something which I hate associating with reading.