… that is the question.
So, its that time of year again. A time to ponder exceedingly critical questions. A time to explore the potential possibilities. A time to sit myself down in front of the mirror and ask myself, hey! What do I want for my birthday?
And I have to say, ladies and gents, I think the time may possibly have come for me to modernise my bookshelf and hop onto the digital bandwagon. But should I? and if so, which digital enhancer of my beloved dusty page tomes should I go for?!??!
I’ve actually been pondering this question for a while, since one evening circa 2012 circa early spring. I was at a SYP (Society of Young Publishers) event at the Adelphi in Leeds. I am not a young publisher or any type of publisher, but had trotted off to Leeds anyway to support my very clever friend, Megan, who had organised the event. Also, there was promise of books and book people and people talking about books. Oh yeah and the free wine. I am a nice and supportive friend. (Wine).
It was a most intriguing evening, headlined by a debate on the merits of old fangled, paper tomes verses the shiny new e-readers now available for one and all to purchase and delight in. I won’t re-iterate what was said that evening, largely because I can’t remember it, but it did get me thinking.
I have always loved books. I fell asleep whilst cradling books as a baby and I have lived in books ever since. There’s something very comforting and reliable about all those pages, beautifully bound and wrapped in a soft, inviting cover. I would most definitely be one of those “book pervs”, as we were affectionately referred to by an e-reader enthusiast that evening, who like to smell and stroke and feel a book. And yes. Yes I do judge books by their covers. Anyone who says that they do not are the very worst kind of liar. But I digress.
Though it pains me to say it, there are some drawbacks to the book. Over the years, my book collection has reached mountainous proportions, with the occasional dip and fluctuation procured by the odd cull and consequential trip to the Oxfam bookshop in town, where the collection is inevitably re-filled. (LOVE the Oxfam bookshop). Books take up lots of room. Books are also a cause of stress when it comes to packing for a holiday. If you are a quick reader, you will need at least two medium sized novels, or a great stonking big one to see you through your week abroad. There’s so much time to fill – the waiting around in the airport, the flight, the hours of baking in the sun, the depressing flight home, prefaced with a lengthy delay surrounded by unhealthily chirpy people who want to engage you in conversation. Of course, this time can also be spent talking to whoever you’re on holiday with or seeing the sights, but y’know, just in case those things turn out to be boring…
In both these cases, surely an e-reader that can hold thousands of books in its diminutive frame is the answer? It removes any storage worries and probably makes the airport check-in desk much less stressful. (We’ve all been there. The last minute, blood pressure raising panic, “I knew I shouldn’t have brought 5 bikinis, maybe I can throw my towel away and dry myself by rolling around in the sand like a dog, damn I should have worn a bigger hat and hidden stuff under there. But I will NOT throw my book away!”)
While the e-reader is most definitely the more practical choice, the thought of a world without books is just too sad. But then again, arm ache while reading on the beach/ on the sofa/ in the garden would probably reduce ten fold without having to hold a heavy book overhead. But then again, e-readers can be many pennies, which means they are more likely to be immediately broken. (I realise that this doesn’t necessarily follow for normal humans, but expensive things in my hands tend to perish rather hastily. Scientists are working on why this is as we speak). But then again, books are made of trees, and I really like trees. But then again, there are so many new novels and short stories etc. that are published electronically without ever making it to book form, so am I missing out on some really amazing writing because I don’t have an e-reader?
Well, as we can clearly see from that very well thought out debate (you’re welcome), there is just no answer to this conundrum. I am still no wiser as to whether I actually want a kindle or other generic tablet style reader thing for my birthday. This has been a colossal waste of all our time. My most sincere apologies.