We live in the digital age, a time of iPods and iPads, Kindles and Nooks and Kobos, bits and bites instead of paper and bindings, and being (just about) a child of the cyber-generation, I embrace the technology.
I collect Apple products like they’re going out of fashion. (They’re not). I download reading app’s and magazine app’s and newspaper app’s as if I’m going to have time to read them all. (I’m not. See previous post). I am not one of those who think the digital revolution will destroy the book industry. Many people will always love, some say fetishise, the feeling of paper between their fingers, the smell of newly printed books the iPad can’t (yet) provide, the thrill of turning the pages and ‘Eye-Ore‘ing the corners (as the Norwegians say) that digital programs attempt to reproduce because they have become so integral to our sense of just what it is to read a book. I read books on Kindle’s Whisper Sync program, download magazines to my Zinio app, read the freebies I can get on iBooks but, deep down, I am one of those paper-fetishisers.
1. Browsing an online bookstore will never, ever beat browsing a real one. From the grumpy clerks, to the haphazard layout, to the thrill of finding something you have been searching for in every bookshop across a continent, to finding things you never knew you were after, bookshop hunting is one of my favourite hobbies. There is something far too easy about typing the book you want into a search engine, (or, more likely, Amazon), and finding the book you want within seconds, and usually for next to nothing, (how on earth do those guys who sell books for a penny on amazon make a living? Is it the $32 they charge for shipping?…) Not only for books, I must say, at the risk of sounding like a grandparent: completing a Panini sticker album used to involve having to go out, meet other kids and, sometimes, physically remove the Norwich shield shiny from their grasping, sweaty hands.
2. As far as I can tell, you can’t lend digital books to friends, or pass them on when you’ve finished with them. Admittedly, I don’t do this nearly enough in real life, but I do sometimes, and it makes me feel damn good when I do. (Then again, I have a sneaking suspicion that with some new eBook readers or sites you may be able to pass digital books on to people, but it’s just not the same, is it?)
3. You can’t find new books for a couple of quid/bucks/shekels in the eBook stores, like you can in second-hand and charity shops across the land. After intensive research of thinking of an author, (Tom Clancy for some reason, not sure why, I’ve never even read him!), and looking up his latest book on Amazon, it turns out that the Kindle version of his book is even more expensive than the hardback version! With all the paper, ink and delivery being saved on the wonders of digital books, where is the logic in that?
(Although, having said all that, I’m pretty sure you can download eBooks illegally just like music and movies…not that I do either, of course…)
4. I can (and do) walk down the street holding a paperback, or lounge on the beach with one, (at the admittedly painful risk of knowing it may get sandy or even water-lapped). I wouldn’t do either with my iPad.
5. Finally, (for now, at least, this may well be a topic I come back to), I don’t know much about my future, from where I want to live to what I want to be doing to afford the place I’m going to be living in, but I do know that I want to own a library of my favourite books. Like one of my literary heroes, Neil Gaiman’s. Or any of the places at this gorgeous site, whose title pretty much says it all: bookshelfporn! As my parents will readily attest, I’m well on my way…
All of this goes some way to explaining why, when packing for the trip I am currently on, I not only packed an iPad and iPhone with enough storage capacity to hold thousands (?) of books, but also eight or nine paperbacks, from the last in a young adult trilogy I have been working my way through to non-fiction works on the American subculture or the search for spirituality in the Middle East, (all of which shall be reviewed here soon). Why do I waste the suitcase space and the back muscles on flesh-and-bone books? Because I love books. And that’s not going to change any time soon…