Monday, 8 August 2011

Let's Hear it for the Book!

Books don't break down. You can't turn a book off. You don't need to charge its battery or plug it in. I've got loads of books. I've had quite a lot of them for years - some, all my life. Quite a few of my books are way older than me. I've never bought a digital device that's lasted more than a few years: we take their built-in obsolescence for granted. Not so books. To replace books with files on a digital machine that needs replacing every few years is frought with problems which I think are insoluble.

If all the mod cons we take for granted ceased to exist (and we take them for granted at our peril) we'd still be able to read any books we came across so long as we kept them dry. Digital media, with no electricity and no internet, will simply turn into enigmatic curiosities. If such a calamity came to pass, we'd need a repository of civilised values to see us through. That repository is the book.

There's something potentially democratic about the printed word. Printed words live in books like people live in cities. People leave books they've read on the tube and on park benches. I can't see them leaving Kindles lying around. A future in which only people who can afford to buy (and replace) gadgets can read books worries me.

If the pigs in Animal Farm had written The Seven Principles of Animalism on their website instead of the barn wall, it would have been easier for them to change them. Instead of creeping out at night with a paint tin -or whatever they did*- they could have done it with a few clicks of a mouse. OK, so our civilisation is pretty secure, but if we think we've reached the end of history I think we're kidding ourselves. I'm not trying to be alarmist here: I suppose what I'm trying to say is that if we take our way of life for granted we make it more vulnerable, not less.

The Rosetta Memory Stick? Eh?

We're not being sold the next great step for civilisation. We're being sold stuff.


* Apologies - but this is a mere blogpost. I don't have time to re-read Animal Farm. :)

15 comments:

e said...

Good points regarding books for leisure; True bibliophiles also love the feel of a book in their hands.

As a librarian, I can also tell the value of alternative formats, especially for those unable to handle a conventional book.

Argent said...

I love the phisicality of a book, its weight, its feel, it's smell and I heartily agree that they don't break down etc. I'd like to think we will always have books but I use a Kindle app sometimes and, as a partially-sighted person, love that the font can be made bigger, the backgrounds and foreground inverted and the like. Kindles and the like are handy for carry lots of books at once for, say, going on holiday.

But I do love a book.

The Solitary Walker said...

Civilisation secure after last night's riots?

Gerry Snape said...

I agree with e that there are occasions when an e-book is good...my granddaughters weak muscles are an instance...but even she would rather have paper. You can pass a good book on...not a machine.

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for these comments!

I'm not anti-digital - I think Project Gutenberg, etc., are great things. I think a combination of paper and digital is the ideal. I'm just concerned by talk of the demise of the book. If it were to be one or the other, it would be the paper book every time from my point of view.

Re the riots: as I said, if we take our way of life for granted we make it more vulnerable, not less. A civilised society, while not condoning the actions of individuals, will see past those actions and address the underlying issues that cause civil unrest. So, is civilisation secure after the riots? Yes - if our response to the riots is a civilised one.

The Solitary Walker said...

I agree absolutely with your civilised response, Dominic.

Marion McCready said...

...but have you ever held a kindle in your hands, eh eh? ;)

Niamh B said...

True, theres not much worse than when a kindle loses battery. I am typing this comment on my dads ipad, while he waits to get back to his book, he wouldnt have that problem with a real book either

Kat Mortensen said...

You can't beat the feel of a real book in your hands. I just don't have any desire to own a Kindle or reading device. Even dirty (literally, not figuratively) books from the library are preferable to me. (Mind you, I do give them the once over with some anti-bacterial hand-cleanser), but I suspect that's a good idea with a Kindle as well.

I don't want to curl up in front of a roaring fire with my Kindle; I want a honest-to-goodness book in my hands.

Kat

The Weaver of Grass said...

Well said1 My sentiments exactly but put better than I could have put it.

The Bug said...

I like my Kindle a lot for my "junk" books - pulp fiction. I don't need to own the actual book because it doesn't really have that kind of worth to me. But for REAL books I want the real thing. Something I can flip back & forth in. Something I can feel & smell and dust once a week or so.

P.S. I do agree with Argent that being able to increase the size of the font on the Kindle is pretty sweet.

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for these comments, everybody. Just one specific, to Marion: ahah! Yes, I have. :)

Furtheron said...

interesting....

one of the points is that today the movement is to access not ownership

part of the consumerist move and clearly encouraged by the vendors - music industry twigged this in the 80s when they brought out the CD and found that the sales were more of the releases than the new stuff.... so make that obsolete and sell a down load which you lose when the hard drive dies and you think to yourself - to hell with it I'll just buy it again...

Same with books maybe. I have to say I'm being tempted by the ebook movement, since I actually rarely keep books, they take up too much space sadly and I do keep nearly all my CDs, just a pointer to where music is above my book reading... apart from things like Wheelers Guitars from the 70s that I still have, battered but still there to remind me of my youth...

However I agree that if we lose the hard copy media exactly then where is the copy of posterity? Out in the cloud somewhere... maybe... new times...

Arnab Majumdar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Arnab Majumdar said...

A few months back, I had an eye affliction due to which I couldn't read much. The only way I could read books was if I could get my hands on the e-book and increase the font on the laptop. It sounds simple enough, but it was during that time that I understood the real value of book, the importance of feeling the rustle of paper beneath your fingers, of smelling the pages of old books. I haven't read a single e-book since.

Cheers,
Arnab Majumdar on SribbleFest.com