perks of being a wallflower
the god-destroyer, otherwise known as a kindle!
The act of buying a book is like nothing else in the world. There’s the anticipation of getting home and reading it straight through in one delicious sitting, or perhaps spinning it out over a few days- you’d have to have a lot more patience than I do, though. There’s the wonderful smell, of paper, fresh ink and that “bookshop” aroma that’s a mixture of dust and something like forgotten words, and of course there’s the cover. Is it simple, pared down, minimalistic? Beautifully sketched or modern? The font reasonably sized or small, elaborate or plain letters?
That’s just when it’s new, of course. The real charm sets in when you’ve owned it for a few months, and it’s become pleasantly dog-eared from that first flurry of reading. Now, it’s an old friend, sitting comfortably on your shelf, waiting patiently for you to pick it up again. And when you do, you might find something you’ve forgotten inside its pages- a scribbled number, your own childish handwriting from years ago if it’s a very old book, perhaps the scent of that perfume you always used to wear, anything really.
You might not have bought it yourself. Maybe it’s a gift from a well loved friend, one of those rare gifts when you don’t pretend to like it for the sake of politeness. Those are the most precious books, the ones that are carefully selected after hours of perusing various shelves. A present that’s appreciated fervently and kept for years is a pleasant surprise and one that you’ll always remember.
Not all the memories can be happy, though. It might be that it’s one someone’s left at your house- an ex, an old acquaintance, someone you don’t speak to any more. If it’s a particularly good book, you might feel a little smug that they’ve unwittingly given it to you, and resolve not to give it back too soon….
But then there’s the shiny new Kindle, perfect for slipping inside a bag, useful for long journeys. It can carry hundreds of books and still stay the same weight, the screen doesn’t emit light so it’s easy on tired eyes, and you can download books with the click of a button, which are a lot cheaper than a physical copy. I own a Kindle myself, and I have to say it’s very, very good. A boy I knew once barely read until he got one, and then started carrying it around school with him, which really made me smile.
It’s a perfect product, really. I know that my generation use electronics for practically everything better than anyone- this blog wouldn’t have happened without the social networking site twitter. And what better way to get teenagers who wouldn’t normally read to do so than to market a new gadget to them? It’s a real brainwave. Although I love books, Kindles are convenient, useful and reasonably affordable. They’re also fantastic Christmas presents, as parents won’t feel guilty about spending £69 on them- it’s educational, right?
There’s a heated debate about Kindles versus books, however. Some people (mostly older people, I’ve noticed) argue that nothing can replace a good book. Others prefer kindles vastly, mostly because of their convenience. But most people seem to use both. From a few dinner table chats with various people, I’ve found that they all seem to have roughly the same conclusion: yes, books will never be replaced, but kindles are incredibly useful.
I’m one of those people. I’ve always been an avid reader since managing the first paragraph of “famous five” by myself, and it was a real problem when I tried to take about ten heavy books in my hand luggage at the age of 6. Although I explained clearly to my parents that it was essential that I had all of them, they didn’t seem so keen on the idea- probably because they’d end up carrying the rucksack. I envy the 7 year olds of today, who can take twenty books AND five teddies AND that all important 500 page drawing pad AND the crayola set without (too) much trouble. My, kids these days!
You might be thinking- well, what’s the problem? There’s a balance of people using both, everything’ll be fine. Books will stay.
The thing is, the book industry is drowning in a big e-book shaped flood. Amazon takes a huge cut of the profits which used to go to the publisher and the retailer- as a result, big chains like Borders have vanished from our high streets, which I sorely miss. How can anyone save the huge corporate companies make a living? There’s no money in the publishing business any more, and I have an ominous feeling that Waterstone’s might be struggling. Yes, e-books are wonderful, but the satisfaction of leaving a bookshop with a heavy bag of reading material?
Got something to say about this debate? Comment! Or contact me on twitter @viviantwitette