Shameless gadgetry of the reading kind.

Are you an e-reader or a p-reader? I am guessing you are a reader, because you are reading a blog-but which sort?

                The march of all things digital forges on like the charge of the Light Brigade. The digital front, I believe, cannot now be halted. We have seen this irrevocable development in music, where downloads have eclipsed all other forms including tapes, CDs, mini-discs and the like. Of course all these formats are still available, together with ‘vinyl’. ‘Vinyl’ however is very much the preserve of nostalgia junkies, those of us who lament the passing of the album and it’s arty, expansive cover…useful, as I recall, for all manner of activities-proper and improper.

                Increasingly, a similar divide exists in literary production. Among readers, as with music lovers, people tend to be either firmly in the e-book camp or clinging emotionally to p-books. In defence of p-books, most of the argument tends towards romantic and usually includes some of the following:

  • ‘Oh-but I love the smell of a real book’.

Yes-the smell. Most of my paperback purchases were from charity shops or second hand bookshops. The smell would often be accompanied by stuck together pages and unidentifiable stains…

  • I like to hold a proper book in my hands and turn the pages.

OK. [why?]

  • They look lovely on the shelves/add to the decor etc

They do. I still have packed shelves of real, proper books. They do look attractive. I just haven’t added to them in recent years.

  • You can write on them/highlight/return to parts/bookmark and so on.

Actually, I never did scribble on books, even as a child, when I believed, as I do now that a book was an object to be revered, treasured and kept pristine for posterity. You can do all of these actions to an e-book.

  • Bookshops and libraries will go out of business.

Many bookshops will go out of business, like record shops. They will either have to adapt in cunning ways or sink without trace. I think there will always be a market for children’s books, for example.

 

I am a convert to e-readers, although I have regrets about owning one from a certain, best-selling, market smothering, tax-avoiding company.  Before I succumbed to going all electronic my reading purchases were random and not necessarily successful. I was inclined to stick with writers I knew or titles I’d heard of.

I’d get anxious before any lengthy travel that I would be stuck somewhere remote without anything to read, not having the capacity or strong enough arms to carry the weight of that number of books [my reading appetite is of the voracious type]. Now I can load a library full of titles and if I’ve devoured them all I can access some internet and replenish the supply in seconds.

Husband has a subscription to a newspaper on his reader, so that he will never be anywhere without knowing the latest rugby results or how much lower the pound has sunk.

Most books are considerably cheaper to buy than their paper versions which means that the device has more than paid for itself by now. Classics are, for the most part, completely free. This has led me to tackle many titles I might have avoided, [with varying degrees of success!] I am still flogging my way through ‘Les Miserables’, albeit with interludes of respite, but I loved Steinbeck’s ‘The Grapes of Wrath’.

 

So I am wedded to my tiny, purple, leather clad gadget, even though I still read an occasional paperback for my book club. How about you?

 

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Don’t blame me that its free!

                You have to give people their due. In this world of scammers, con artists, fraudsters and hoodwinkers, the ‘too good to be true’ message certainly seems to have got through. It is well nigh impossible to give something away free, without charge, no strings attached.

                Tuesday 23rd April was ‘World Book Night’. One of the events that mark this annual celebration of all things ‘book’ is a mass donation of free fiction novels to the public at large. It is the third year that I have volunteered to be a ‘book giver’.

                In the first year of book donations, we, the ‘givers’ had 40 copies of our chosen book to give. This was a tall order. I’d selected Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Blind Assassin’, a novel which I’d stumbled upon on a shelf of discarded paperbacks in a hotel in The Gambia-an unlikely find, but one which I’d been thrilled by. It led me to read many more of Ms Atwood’s works. I am always evangelistic about novels I’ve loved, boring the pants off anyone I meet about them-hence my enthusiastic approach to book donation. The opportunity to give away 40 copies of a book I’d enjoyed so much was irresistible, so  I was somewhat dismayed by the luke warm  reaction of many. I attempted to give copies away to local care homes and hospitals, where the reception varied from reluctance [‘er, alright-just leave them there’] to alarm, [NO-we don’t need BOOKS!]. I managed to get some of my neighbours to accept a copy with one outright success, a convert to Atwood, like myself.

                Last year I opted for a classic-‘Rebecca’ by Daphne DuMaurier. The number of books dropped to a more reasonable 20. I distributed them to groups in the community without too much trouble, although this was taking the path of least resistance.

                This year I chose Sebastian Barry’s excellent Irish tale, ‘The Secret Scripture’, written in the most beautiful, poetic style and documenting an astonishing and harrowing series of events in the life of an elderly woman. I loved it and wanted everyone else to. Thinking I should make more of an attempt to follow the World Book Night instructions I set off to give the books out to as many complete strangers as I could find, and since it was a warm, sunny day, striding off along the promenade by the beach.

                I homed in on my first victims outside the beach café; two women at a table.

                “Can I offer you a book to read?” I asked them. “It is completely free and a very good story.”

                “No! I don’t want a book. I’ve got a Kindle-look!” The woman held it up in triumph, as though she’d beaten me in some kind of competition.

                I kept smiling. “Yes, I have a Kindle too,” I said. “But you would have to pay for your download and this is a freebee.”

She stalked off, leaving her friend to do me the courtesy of kindly accepting the free novel from me. It was a long morning, nevertheless amongst the suspicion, rejection and cold shouldering I did enjoy one or two jolly, book related conversations and a couple of people were genuinely thrilled to be given a brand new paperback to read.

                I wonder what the titles will be next year?