the everyman’s library; luddites beware

Books. We all have them, from the arthritic librarian with her thousands of hardbacked, leather bound, paper-faced, illustrated offspring, to the most timid bibliophobe with their tiny, moth-eaten picture book locked firmly in a box beneath their bed.

& what a rock n’ roll lifestyle they’ve lived. Every lifestyle, in fact. They’ve been loved, hated, burned, sealed in museums, wielded in great rallying rallies in the fists of respective ralliers, stored neatly on identikit IKEA shelving, rotted in the deep, cavernous depths of some schoolkid’s rucksack & shone as a great beacon of hope for humanity while everything about them descended uncontrollably into chaos. Books stand before us learned & infinitely wise. The entire history of human-kind & more locked firmly between their wood-pulp pages.

What have you done recently?

No. My point is not to belittle the incomparable lives of us all. My point is; aren’t books just brilliant. (That’s a very first point, not the basis for this blog entire, for that, I realise, would be a terrible waste of your time).

& now – & now – we have electronic books. Books that aren’t really books. Magazines that aren’t really magazines. Er. Poems that aren’t really poems. Just an incandescent typeface glowing happily up into our face-types. Isn’t it terrible? Isn’t it maddening to think that people will abandon with ignorance & wanton recklessness the beautiful bound & glued pages of the latest hardback, so they can stare drone-like into their iTome or eBrainer or something?

Well, actually, it isn’t really. Mass paperback production didn’t spell the end of luxurious hardback editions. Cassettes didn’t kill vinyls. CDs didn’t kill vinyls. Torrenting didn’t kill vinyls. (Vinyls are pretty bloody enduring). Technology will always improve, but the printed word will always be in-demand, always be vital to technology’s progress. Basically, people will still buy the real thing. I torrent. Yes. I do. But I also buy all the music I listen to. There’s a healthy medium. & so with books, especially at the moment, since a new ebook is the equivalent in cost to its paperback cousin. But the price wil sort itself out. Sellers will realise the need to drop the price of ebooks, not least because we don’t actually get anything physical out of the transaction.

I read ebooks on my phone at the moment. It’s brilliant, except for the fact that the screen is a bit small, it isn’t e ink so it glares a bit, & I refuse to pay for an ebook until I have a reader, so everything is pre-1950 (a good thing) & plastered with ads & warnings from project gutenberg (a bad thing). It’s good for short books. Metamorphosis/Time Machine books.

Sony have just released their new reader, in an entry-level & (what is presumably) a professional model. At £180 it’s decidedly cheaper than the previous model (which has also come down in price as the last few stocks dwindle, redundant on the shelves). & it’s sorely tempting to buy one. Until. Until. Until Kindle. Amazon’s elusive-on-British-shores revolutionary, silver, shiny, 3G utilising, literature-romping, fuck-machine of a reader. Christmas was the latest release-date rumour. But that’s going to drift past on an inevitable wave of disappointment. By which time, will the Sony reader have been worth getting all along? It handles PDFs better. I can still use gutenberg for free. & most of all it’s now.

Summer is nearly over however. I’m not going away anywhere. The use of the reader as a handy device to store neatly in my suitcase instead of a tidal wave of tatty travel reading is now redundant until next year. But it’s a gadget, & as it’s a gadget I want one. I want to tinker with its toggles, doodle with its dials & putter with its protrusions, I want to stroke its slipstream screen with rising anticipation at reading the first novel from its e ink surface.

Regardless of which reader, though, their mission isn’t to eradicate from the crevices of our minds the desire for corporeal texts, but to complement them. They want to be our little travel companion on long haul flights. Our bus-stop comrade. Our smug bed-side mate that won’t lose its place when the words shift restlessly before our tired eyes & we fall asleep… unlike those treacherous paperbacks. No. Not treacherous. Quaint. Quaint & familiar.

Let books, in all their forms, hold the torch by which our lives are lit – & ultimately held up to. They still beat real conversation.

j.

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One Response to “the everyman’s library; luddites beware”

  1. baldcrusaderman Says:

    This article makes me lament my indifference to books (and reading in general). Also;

    >I torrent. Yes. I do.

    Good grief.

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