Bollocks?: E-books.

I’ve always leaned towards the more old fashioned way of doing things. Despite being born in the digital age of downloads, Wi-Fi and fast streaming internet porn, I’ve always had a certain fondness for the more slow paced way of life. For instance I prefer ancient history to modern, I think swords are cooler than guns, and I prefer letters to emails despite having never posted one.

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Remember when computers used to just freeze every so often. It wasn’t that you had a faulty model, that’s just what they did. I liked that. It was like an old faithful dog who just occasionally pissed on your bed.

That’s not to say I despise the modern age by any means. Recent advancements in technology give our lives ease and comfort never before seen even by the most privileged people of the past. In fact without these advancements I wouldn’t be writing this blog and you wouldn’t get the unparalleled joy of reading it. I understand that a better or more convenient version of something won’t necessarily kill the old one. Look at Vinyl records for example; CD’s and downloads are technically far more convenient but there’s still a large market for them and many young people who weren’t even alive when they were current listen to them.

There is one new innovation that concerns me however. That innovation is the E-book. As a huge bibliophile (that means someone who loves books not children. Over age books of course) there are lots of things I don’t like about E-books. I don’t like the way the first Kindle looked like something a time vortex spat out from the 90’s. I don’t like the way it’s killing book stores and I certainly don’t like the way you can only buy E-books from the same company you bought your E-book reader.

 

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The 90’s called. They want their shitty grey plastic back.

What I dislike most of all however, is that on paper (no sort of pun intended) the E-book is simply better than your physical book. At first I just dismissed E-books as another tech fad having it’s moment in the limelight but after talking with friends who’d bought them I began to realise that E-books do have some serious advantages over physical books.

1. You can store thousands of books onto one portable device. No, I don’t mean you no longer have to carry a book around if you’re planning to read it. That’s a bullshit complaint and you know it. Unless you’re reading the complete works of Shakespeare a book is rarely too heavy to comfortably hold. If it is it serves you right for not thinking about that when you bought it. What I’m talking about is shelf space. I read a lot and these days I’ve got so many books I’ve got them in huge stacks in my bedroom. I really love books so much that I can rarely bare to sell them once I’ve read one and so my shelf space has long since depleted. Personally I don’t mind this. Having books around me is like being surrounded by old friends. Each one filled with stories, knowledge and memories. I can understand that to some people the idea of having hundereds of books taking up a tablets worth of space is appealing.

2. They’re good for the environment.
This is one of the best things the E-book has going for it. I can’t imagine how many trees get cut down per year simply to provide enough paper for books. Although some publishers use sustainable forests to make their paper many don’t and untill EVERY publisher does the E-book will win this round.

3. Digital books are cheaper.Obviously another huge pro that will appeal to people. My mother recently downloaded Life Of Pi for 20p whereas a physical copy will run you around £4.99 on Amazon. With most people short on money right now a low price tag is mighty tempting.

Despite these advantages I still don’t think an E-book can hold a candle to your classic book because of one thing. Character. You can’t quantify character, you can’t mass produce it and you certainly can’t download it. Books, regardless of their genre, have character. Hear me out before you consider me schizophrenic.

Books, like a fine wine, get better with age. Fresh off the printers a new book is like a new born baby. It’s beautiful, it has that really nice fresh sort of smell and sometimes it’s fucking annoying because all your friends are banging on about it. As you read the book you develop a relationship with it. Depending on how much you enjoy the book you may love it for the rest of your life or you may regret it entirely. A book you love always has the most character. The more you like it the more you can’t stop thinking about it and by the last page you will feel like you’ve been on a journey with it. After you’ve finished it the book will be like an old friend you visit from time to time to relive old times with. Towards the end of your books life the wear and tear will be beggining to show, the pages will have browned and the spine wrinkly but this is the sign of a book that was loved. Instead of smelling fresh and new it will smell old and musky like a loved grandparent or a your childhood teddy bear.

But it’s not just the physical things that give a book it’s charm. Like people books seem to be shaped by the knowledge they hold. For instance, I saw a first edition of Mein Kampf once. The malice written inside it seemed to resonate from the book itself and the creases and marks looked like scars and burns as disturbing as the mind that wrote it.

On the other hand I was recently in a second hand book shop where a peculiar looking book caught my eye. It was a hardback bound in blue leather with something along the lines of Miracles and Prayers from the Bible written in gold on the front. The edge of each page were coloured gold so when closed the paper appeared to be a block of gold. I opened it up and on the first page was written “To Mary, with love”. I don’t know who Mary was and I’m an Atheist. On paper (and again) the book held no interest for me. However the character I felt from this book forced me to take a moment and flick through it and read the odd sentence that caught my eye.  That book to me, with all its dust marks and worn pages, is more beautiful than even the sleekest, sexiest machine could ever be.

An E-book could hold all the books in the world and maybe because of that it will never have it’s own identity, it’s own character. It’s simply a means to an end. I intend to keep turning pages until my last chapter.

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