Thursday, 16 September 2010

In praise of paper books

Today I have a guest blogger, Jim Buck, musing on what he likes about traditional books as he waits for the arrival of his brand new Kindle:

1) Bookshops are my favourite shops. I love the mystery of used bookshops; and the congregation of like-minded souls in Waterstones and places like it. If I meet someone in Waterstones, I know they are basically OK. Bookshops are the nearest I get to church attendance.

2) I love the smell and feel of a new book; its like the thrill of a new lover. It might all end in discord and discard, but I'm a little richer for the experience.

3) I love browsing other people's bookshelves; it tells me more about them than anything else; their whole history is there to see.

4) Sitting opposite someone on a train who has their nose stuck in a kindle is a less aesthetic experience than seeing an interesting book cover.

5) I have had books autographed by Doris Lessing and all sorts of interesting people. What will they do when presented with my kindle? Reboot it?

6) Some of the most enjoyable reading experiences I have had have come about through me having to read a book because no other one is available e.g when sharing a villa with friends and you exchange books, because you are read up.

So if the kindle is isn't here by the end of this week, I think I shall cancel.

Jim Buck


  1. So much to agree with there. In my perfect world I would have everything in duplicate, with every book represented both in digital and paper form. As a matter of fact several of the books I now have on my nook (the Barnes and Noble ereader) are simply more portable versions of books I have had for a long time on my shelves. A Complete Shakespeare, Complete Sherlock Holmes, some RL Stevenson, Shaw, Austen and more.

    To me it's kind of like when I transfer music I have on old record albums to my iPod.

    Of course there are books I purchased exclusively in digital format and as a reading experience I really enjoy my nook. And there is no denying the fact that available space and sometimes available money can be limiting factors when it comes to "real" books. That excuse flies out the window when chased by the digital beast, although the big publishing houses have yet to truly bring their digital prices into line with costs. But overall it's a good thing. A different good thing, but good.

  2. Yay! I too am cheering the print book side! I think e-readers have a place in the world of publishing but I sort of see them as a companion to rather a replacement of print books. Print books have a whole aesthetic and pleasing and wonderful sense about them. They feel accomplished and weighty and imbued with so many memories like those stated here. Long may the continue to fill our bookshelves and strain our bags!

    Take care

  3. So is it a case of 'the cowboy and the farmer should be friends' then, Kitty and Alan?

    Perhaps a free download of the ebook with each traditional book purchase...

  4. Thanks, Lexi. Now I'm going to have that tune from "Oklahoma" rattling around in my head all day.

    "The cowboy and the farmer should be friends,
    Oh, the cowboy and the farmer should be friends.
    One man likes to chase a cow,
    The other likes to push a plow,
    But that's no reason why they cain't be friends."

    I played Slim in a wonderful production of Oklahoma about five hundred years ago. The fellow who played Curly was a wonderful singer but his wooing of Laurie rang a bit false. Not that gay folks can't play straight, but for him it was a stretch.

  5. The price of the kindle has just left my bank account; so it looks as if the all-electric book-carrier is on its way to me. No matter how useful a device it might prove, my long love affair with beautiful books will continue.


    Jim Buck

  6. Exciting! Let us know how you get on with your new Kindle - full report, please.

  7. I would love nothing more than a digital copy of a book being included when I buy a physical book. Like others, I don't see it as an 'either/or'. I love books and I love bookshops but the convenience of being able to carry around a lot of books and having access to all the wonderful public domain works is a massive pull. I couldn't live in a house without books though. I am more willing to take a risk with electronic books though - because they cost a lot less.

  8. Agreed - though the debate about ebook pricing rages on; it'll be interesting to see what publishers decide/are forced to do about it.

  9. All true, but we sometimes forget that books are not so simple either. I once helped produce an information CD for people with parkinsons disease, which we tested with various people who suffered with it.
    'So much easier than a book' said one old lady. 'It's hard to hold a book and difficult to turn the pages. When you look something up in the index you may need to keep that page and find your way through to several different other pages.' As she said this she mimed with her shaking hands the actions needed, turning imaginary pages with elaborate care but still losing her place.
    'If I drop it, then it's teribly hard to pick it up again.'
    I suddenly realised that books are a very complex piece of technology - it's just that we've got used to them. That old lady loved her computer, with it's mouse desensitized so that it shook less.
    I'd love to know what she would make of an Ipad or a Kindle.

  10. True, Rod. I've read comments from readers saying they don't like having to hold a paper book open, once they'd got used to not having to with a Kindle.

    The reader you mention might find the Kindle buttons too small; if that's so, I'm sure it will only be a matter of time before a Kindle designed for people with those problems is produced - it will be a growing market, I'd imagine, as we all live longer and ereaders catch on.