Posts Tagged ‘e-book’

Kindle and all that

October 25, 2010

I’ve gone over to the dark side. I bit the bullet. I splurged and spent and am now awaiting delivery.

I ordered an ereader, a Kindle.

But that doesn’t make me a bad person.

How To Be Nice To A Book

July 5, 2010

I’ve been thinking about books.

And I’ve been thinking about non-books.

Books are what you find on your shelves and piled up on your bedside cabinet and half hidden as they get kicked under your bed by a wayward foot that is not quite awake enough in the morning to be held responsible.

And non-books are what you read on your computer monitor and your Kindle or iPad or some other e-reader. A non-book doesn’t really exist. It’s just a mess of binary code that gets translated on demand and when you have finished that page and you press the button it gets forgotten and replaced by the next batch of binary code, instantly translated into e-ink for the next page.

You know what I like most about real books? They attract more ink. They invite you to write in them. They love it when you annotate and footnote and cross-reference and highlight and draw those lines down the margin past two whole paragraphs because the prose is of such wonder that you know you will come back again in about two pages time.

Real books get signed by their authors. I’ve signed heaps of my books for customers at bookshops. There is something added by that personal touch. I’ve got books signed by the authors to other people. One of them is open in front of me at the moment. It’s the autobiography of Robert Adamson, one of Australia’s well known poets, a friend of my brother. This is not merely signed at a bookshop, it’s the personal gift of the author to a friend, and it has some extra quality for that friendship.

I have many books signed in such a manner. Several of them are signed by their authors to me at the same time I signed one of mine to them. Authors swap books. It’s not merely because we are cheapsters. We value the time that we have put into our own writing and so we value the work of other authors as well. Author swaps turn stock into real books with the stroke of a pen and a shared smile of appreciation.

Real books get folded corners and coffee stains. There’s another book of poetry sitting on my desk at the moment. It has beer glass rings on it. And not just any old beer. This is Hoegaarden Wheat Beer from Belgium. It dates back to 1445 I’m assured by Google. The glass is tall and slender and very fine, a glass fitted to such a drop. So Huw Luscombe’s book of poetry, ‘My TV Is A Vampire’, is circled with fine company indeed. Try that on your iPad.

Try indeed to make an e-book into a real book. Try to stick a bright orange sticky label out the top so you can find the right page in a year’s time. Try to write notes in the margin of an e-book. Try to draw circles around a few words on a two page spread and link them with pencil lines, perhaps with the lines chasing over the page to the next occurrence of significance that you can’t leave un-remarked.

I’m sure e-readers are useful. I can see myself on a train journey in quiet contentment with one. It would be loaded up with a novel or two, a travel diary or two, a picture book or two. I’d be happy to swap between them, to look out the window at the passing view, to fall asleep to the hum of the wheels. It would be part of the journey.

But I know that all I would really have inside that e-reader was a mess of binary code and the promise from the book-seller that I can read the book  until they decide my license to do so is revoked and suddenly, with the finality of more binary signals flying between wi-fi points, my mess of binary code is deleted and my permission to read the book is extinguished.

Real books run in my blood. My maternal grandmother’s sister, Fairlie Taylor, was the first teacher-librarian in Victoria about one hundred years ago. She was awarded a British Empire Medal for her services to education in 1976. No mess of binary code for her, it was real books all the way.

My father was a doctor, but wanted to be a poet. I once spent a day at his old university college, where his nick-name was Shelley, chasing up the yearbooks of his time there. Scattered through them were poems and short stories that he wrote. The editor of the journal in those days was Gough Whitlam, later PM of Australia. Gough had some very nice things to say about my father’s writing when he left university to join the army. The army took a while to find out he was a med student and sent him right back to complete his study, where he became the editor of the journal after Whitlam. Those pages off the shelves from the 1940s have a special patina that can’t be reproduced on an e-reader.

I’ve used microfiche machines in libraries, and I’ve read countless things on a computer monitor (which is where I spend my writing time as well), but there is nothing like the feel of real pages.

A real book invites me to participate. Whether it’s the rough cut pages of centuries old books, or the seductive gel print covers of the latest ‘liftings’ from the bookshop shelves, a real book will get me every time.