A book, a book, a kingdom for a … (hang on; wasn’t that a horse?)
I have fallen in love with my Kindle. Totally, unequivocally in love. I smirk (yupp, no other word for it) when I consider just how MANY books I can carry around in this versatile little device, thereby avoiding strained shoulders due to heavy hand luggage.
BUT. Major but … there’s a lack of sensory impressions. No cover to caress, no pages to dog-ear, none of that wonderful smell a new book emanates when for the first time you crack its spine. Plus there’s the pleasure of stacking your TBR books in an enticing, tottering pile – a far cry from the rather dry list you access through pressing the menu button on your Kindle…
Despite this, I believe the future will see very few “real” books, but far more e-books. Why?
Firstly because it’s convenient.
Secondly, because there’s a whole bright new generation who do everything on their computers and electronic devices – and I mean everything. They don’t yearn for a paper book while in the bath, nor do they worry overmuch about getting sunscreen on the kindle (They assume it can take it).
Thirdly, there’s an environmental aspect. Printed books = chopped down trees, and the way this planet is going we need to become better at preserving the trees we have. Having said that, I’ve heard about the paper-less society for well over a decade by now, and so far it’s mostly hot air.
In the future, home libraries will contain the precious books, the ones we can’t imagine doing without. In my case it would be Don Quijote, Shakespeare’s collected work, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Rings and Gone with the Wind – just to name a few. The rest, we’ll have on our Kindles, our computers or iPads. Good or bad, one wonders …
“I’m not sure,” one of my sons say when I ask him. We’re driving up to the country house just me and him, so he’s trapped in the car and has been listening with lukewarm interest to my little spiel re e-book versus the printed thing. He holds up his phone. “I do most of my reading on this. So you’re probably right, my generation will not read on paper.”
“See?” I nod, quite happy with my decision to publish my future books mainly as e-books.
“Ultimately the advent of the e-book opens the door on repression,” he says out of the blue some minutes later.
“What?” There are times when this particular child of mine makes me feel intellectually impaired. Right now I think he’s being plain stupid. E-books INCREASE the availability of the written word, right?
“You think?” He shrugs. “If I were a dictator and wanted to control what my subjects can read it would be much easier to do so if everything only exists in digital form.” He looks out of the window. “Deleting a file is a hell of a lot simpler than building gigantic bonfires to burn books on, don’t you think?”
Well, he has me there. He chuckles and goes back to playing with his phone. “If it doesn’t exists in tangible form it doesn’t really exist,” he says. “Virtual worlds can be impressively realistic, hundreds of thousands spend their entire days in a digitally powered game universe, but the moment they stop playing they’re back to the real world, you know, the boring place that DOES exist in opposition to the fantasy place we play in.” He gives me a teasing look. “Same thing with books, Mamma. Unless you have a hard copy somewhere it’s only a virtual creation.”
Hmm. I’m not sure I agree with him. The books in my Kindle have the same capacity to transport me elsewhere as does the paper book I read in my bath tub. That’s what books do. they lift you out of the here and now and take you to unknown places and unknown times.
“Do you think they will?” I ask.
“The dictators. Will they bother with wiping e-books?”
“Mamma,” he sighs, looking at me over his glasses. “Don’t be so naive. Of course they will.” He flashes me a grin. “I don’t think they’ll go after your books, they’re not exactly dripping with political thought, are they?”
Well, thank you very much!
I mull our conversation over in my head as I drive through the snow covered landscape. That future library of mine is expanding at an exponential rate with all those books I feel obliged to preserve, saving them from the twitching finger of a megalomaniac dictator who wants to reshape literature for future generations by pressing the “delete” button.
“The best thing with e-books is that the bad guys won’t be able to keep up,” my son muses out loud. “They can delete until their finger turns blue, but how on earth are they to vet all the new stuff coming out?”
I sit back and grin. Best argument I’ve heard for e-book publishing! Keep the stuff coming and we’ll drown all those people who want to control what people read and think. But just in case I’ll hang on to my entire book collection, and if my husband complains I’ll fix him with a cold stare and tell him I’m doing it for posterity. After all, where would the world be without at least ONE copy of M.M. Kaye’s The Far Pavilions?