Not Kindling my Fire

Myself along with, I think, many others whole heartedly agree with the belief that a Kindle is not a book, nor does it come close to being one. Even overlooking the obvious dictionary definitions involved in this argument, there is simply, in my mind anyway, no comparison.

Due to the abundance of ‘free time’ that the recent pandemic introduced, I have been reading more often (twice as many as in 2019, I counted) and more often than not I curl up comfy with a book, then wake up at stupid-o-clock having fallen asleep inside the book itself. It may be in the turmoil of Katniss Everdeen, the loss of Farthing Wood, the life of Prentice McHoan, the travels and adventures of Bilbo, the seabound voyages of Aubrey and Maturin or even the story of young Annie Darwin.

At this point I smile, slip a BOOKmark into the page where my thumb is resting (or more often than not leaving the book under the pillow / simply where it fell and worrying about that in the morning), and then returning to the same idyll at the end of the following day. Not…well, not finding out that my ‘book’ has been ‘on’ all night and now requires plugging into something in order to function again. Oh I am sure there are arguments for battery-life and other such pedantic points but my ‘infinity’ battery of Actual Existence and Physical Corporeality trumps any finite power supply anyday.

Try using a Kindle to fix a wobbly table. Not going to happen.

‘Never judge a book by its cover.’ I agree, but that doesn’t mean the cover is irrelevant. Running ones fingers over a cover to find raised, embossed sections is a pleasure that if you have not yet enjoyed needs to be felt to be believed. Even the shiny lettering on my Robin Hobb collections had me in gooseflesh.

And I haven’t even started thinking about bookshops yet. Oh wow, says she, sitting at a table and reading a review of a story on her laptop and then skipping onto Amazon to buy a discounted electronic slew of letters and words that will, presumably in the blink of an eye, be available for her to see and read on her own personal access device that fits neatly inside her purse and makes her look as modern as a laser bolt. Then she steps out into the modern metropolis and goes back to work and says she ‘bought a book’. So excuse me whether I spend my lunch hour rummaging through a dusty shop with a spiralling black metal staircase looking like something out of romantic history, assisted by a gloriously attractive librarian with stunning eyes behind intellectual glasses, trying to blow the cobwebs off a heavy tome that will thump down on my desk with a meaty crash, and which I will likely spend many late hours reading the hallowed pages of, by candlelight, then going back to my metropolis and saying I ‘bought a book.’ And by the way I’m staggering about carrying a ten-tonne cuboidal mass you know that it wasn’t just any book, it was a Book.

And what about passing the book on to your loved ones? Yes, I think you should read this; Here, you can borrow it. Or keep it and pass on the good word. And ten years down the line when revisiting friends you’ve not seen in an age and exclaiming hey I gave this to you! upon seeing item in question displayed on a shelf / in an ancient trunk in their loft. Not, in this new evil festering thoughtsphere spreading throughout our modern world; I read this and think you should read it – you can download it on amazon. Can you loan e-books to other people? I don’t even know.

Now, of course there is the opposite side of the argument. Having your entire book collection inside one small A5 piece of technology certainly trumps a whole wall / room being taken up in your house, but I’m afraid that’s just not something that ever restrains me. Bookshelves are excellent talking points for guests, obsolete reads that you don’t intend to re-read can be given to charity shops or given to neighbours or friends.

I’m drawn, inexorably, to a book. It’s called “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel, and was printed in 2014, winning a science fiction award at the time. It’s about a pandemic that sweeps through the world, possibly too similarly to the events present, but the endgame is a world where electricity is a thing of legend. How do they tell stories? Why of course, they use theatre, and books. Solid, reliable books. The solid mass at the heart of the novel itself is even a comic book. A physical collection of words and pictures on paper.

It’s called ‘your own opinion’ for a reason, but no matter how many times I listen to the argument for the modern space-saving marvel that is the Kindle / e-book whatever, there is absolutely nothing further from my mind than buying one of those things. There is far too much to reading a proper book, whether it be where you were, what you were doing, what’s on the cover, the look, feel and smell, the anecdotes about chasing down the lost and found department at the train station to locate “The Mauritius Command” because you’ve misplaced it again, or sending your loved one post-it notes inside pages of a gifted novel,  or trying to collect every cover variation of “Raise the Titanic”, or having Michael Palin himself sign and personalise your copy of “Sahara”– there is just far much Story to a Book, and that’s what’s important.

(recent relevant anecdote) Whilst standing in the queue for my second vaccination i took out a book and leaned against a tree to enjoy the passage of time. A lovely elderly nurse said to me, “oh its so nice seeing somebody reading an actual book these days.” Case rested.

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