Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Book Porn






We all like to fantasize about our dream home. The place we'll live in once we finally grow up, get real jobs and can actually afford a mortgage. Maybe not the mortgage part. We like to fantasy decorate this house, it changes from time to time as flocked wallpaper flits in and out of fashion. Depending on the kind of gal you are, you might spend the majority of your ideal-home daydreaming time imagining the bedroom, kitchen, bathroom or wardrobe. I am not one of these ladies. For me, the creme de la creme of my proper grown up house will be the library. Oh yes. We're not just talking the living room with a few extra book shelves - an actual library; a room dedicated entirely to books and the reading of them. I'll know I've made it when I have a library that's for sure. 

Until that time comes, I have to make do with a variety of temporary solutions. For many months now, quite possibly years, my growing book collection has sat un-shelved and forlorn on my bedroom floor. Nothing pains me quite like the mistreatment of books but my 2-shelf book case doth not suffice in housing my entire collection.

Each time I purchase a new book, it is destined for life amongst it's fellow friends, pushed against a wall teetering dangerously high. This is necessary, because the solution to this problem - sharing the shelves with everyone else's books is also too painful to consider. The thought of my books being mixed up with somebody else's in God knows what order - no, thank you.

I thought I my Birthday and Christmas had both come at once when I managed to snag an unused bookshelf with 3 whole shelves - much larger than what I currently have. I moved all the books into their new home and was feeling pretty damn good. Until now. After scouring the living room shelves for any of my babies that had been separated from the pack - I came up with TWENTY TWO books that I have no room for. 

I can't bear to start a new bedroom floor pile, so I suspect I will have to move a few things back to their original 2-shelf home. Now this problem of mine, like Carrie Bradshaw before me, got me to thinking. It seems in our digital, techno-overload, modern existence - there is no place for books. Literally. There's plenty of space for a teeny-tiny piece of equipment that slips into your back pocket - and slips right out again into the bath, sea, a puddle. 

I fear we may be entering into a time where books no longer have a place and that deeply saddens me. I feel like I have been mourning the loss of books since the first e-Reader sold. I have no doubt the sales of physical copies has been effected - they were probably struggling to sell them before e-Books were invented (I've never seen so many 2 for 1, buy one get one 1/2 price offers), hence the need to come up with a more affordable way of selling books - but I'd imagine it has made it even harder to shift something for £7.99 when you can download it for £1.99.

This is great for all those people who can't afford to buy a mountain of paper backs and then struggle to find the space to store them - however, if you can afford to spend £200 on a Kindle I'm sure money wasn't really the issue in the first place. The selling point for the e-Reader is the convenience of it all. It's so tiny and flat - who needs a giant, unwieldy book that weighs down your bag and crinkles in the bath when you can download 2 trillion novels into ONE THING that weighs 10grams? Or something. People these days don't have the time to go to Waterstones and buy a book, then find the space to store it in their shoebox flat - because it's 2013, guys and if you're living alone and you're under 40 - you're probably living in a studio with a shared bathroom. Where the hell are you supposed to fit all your stuff anyway? 

I understand it's easier. I really do. I hate the fact I can't always fit a book in my bag and there's nothing more annoying than finishing a story half way into a train journey and not being able to start another one. Because there's no way I'm taking 2 books every where I go - that is ridiculous. It just makes me slightly sad that we may be losing something very special with the prominence of digitized books. The future of print is looking very, very bleak right now and it's a great shame. 

I can see there are positives in that people are probably reading more than ever before because it's so much more accessible.  I cannot deny how easy and convenient it is to be able to download something you want straight away rather than wait until an Amazon delivery. Everybody should read, it doesn't matter what you're reading, as long as you're reading something and if buying a Kindle helps you do that, then great.

But there is nothing better to me than the physicality of a book. The tangible, actual-ness of a paper book. The weight of it in your hand. The feel of it when you're in bed late at night and you can't put it down, I love the turning of the pages - the possibility of all the words ahead of you. You can see them and you desperately want to know what happens at the end but you really don't want to ruin it for yourself at the same time. Yes, they can be heavy and they make your hands hurt sometimes but that's all part of the charm. Laying on a sun lounger, in bed, on the sofa - you have to keep turning round because your hands and arms are going numb. Nothing can replace the beauty of a real paper page - the e-Reader knows it's fighting a losing battle with all the promised 'paper white' screens. It's just not quite the same. 

They all look so beautiful lined up on their shelves. What could be better than a shelf full of your books - the memories of reading them and how they affected you? You can't underline a quote or a special line on an e-Reader. There's nothing personal about a black screen. There's no sharing a favourite part with somebody who's reading the same thing, you can't just turn over the corner page and flip back to a funny line. This is why I treasure the books I have so much, I love to see them all in front of me. I like to chose which one I'm going to re-read depending on the mood I'm in. Instead of inventing different ways to read books - how about they develop a way of forgetting you've read a book so that you can rediscover and love it all over again?

I await the demise of the printed book with sadness, along with the possibility that many of my favourite magazines could also be headed down the same route. I guess the rarity of print can only make it more special, but I don't want to imagine a time when my children or grandchildren might not have a creased and torn copy of The Cat in the Hat on their bedside table. 




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