Friday, 23 September 2011

Real books V Kindle

I had a look at a Kindle for the first time yesterday and as much as I tried to have an open mind (I didn’t) I wasn’t surprised to find I hated it.

I felt exactly the same as the first time I used a CD. Before CD’s (and the even more detached itunes) we used to know the names of tracks, and the order of them and we had a solid connection to the art itself, an LP or single was a beautiful, colourful, tactile delight, before you even discovered the music that was going to shape your life.

The lovely little messages etched into the smooth vinyl, the hiss and crackle, the turning over half way through, the placing of the needle on the groove, I loved it all.

So forgive me if I cannot get excited about staring at a piss-poor electronic screen, a soul-less window that further distances me from the mind and hand of the author.

‘But they’re really good, you can have hundreds of books at once’.

I don’t want hundreds of books at once, I want to have a relationship, organic and growing, with the book in my hands, the book that has been crafted and sweated over, a direct connection from the creative brain through the hand to the page and into my brain.

I want to finish it and caress its cover and kiss it, as I have done with many books that have delighted me and lifted my spirit.
Most recently Lean On Pete by the wonderful Willy Vlautin. (I had to go into the spare room and have a little cry).

I could never feel the same about reading the new Douglas Coupland or James Frey direct from a grey screen, or discovering the joys of Carey or McKewan or Bukowski (as I have recently) via a toy.

I’m sure I’m wrong, I often am when it comes to things that I perceive to be pointless that take over the world. U2 (thought they would be gone by the end of ’83), Madonna (I predicted Cyndi Lauper would have more longevity) the internet (‘what’s the point of that? It’ll never catch on’. Me, circa 1998.)

Nothing can compare to finding a tatty copy of The Ravens, the Count of Monte Christo or Papillon whilst back-packing in some small backstreet second-hand book exchange in Bangkok or Hanoi, and adding to its well thumbed life.
Taping it up with gaffer tape and then passing it on for someone else to have a mind altering experience.

Or in some cases bringing it home and having it proudly on your bookshelf as a memento of another time (my copy of Sideshow I bought at the entrance to the killing fields in Cambodia still give me a frisson of revulsion and fascination whenever I glance its cover on the bookcase at the top of our stairs.)

Books play a huge part in our lives, both myself and the future Mrs. L (although I’ve been informed she wont be taking my surname. Very wise) love to discover new authors and new series and buy them one after the other until another new bookcase is required. Will we really feel the same just having a list of tracks on a box?
I’m certain I never will.

In much the same way DJs, dance music and mixing saved vinyl I’m hoping that the huge number of comics and graphic novels that are produced monthly and yearly will protect printed media.

I for one will not be buying a Kindle and I hope for the sake of protecting the poetic soul in all of us neither will you.

Just read: Lean On Pete by Willy Vlautin.
Now reading: The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim by Jonathan Coe
Listening to: God hates a coward by Tomahawk.

1 comment:

  1. Mmm. Think we may have found a subject upon which we can disagree. I understand your love of books as things in themselves, just as I share your love of vinyl and their sleeves. But, admirable though these sentiments are, is this not a form of commodity fetishism? Both music and literary downloads are surely about the content rather than the medium in which that content is available. I don't have a Kindle, but that is because I do much of my reading on my iPad. On a trip to Boston, for example, I take with me a hundred or more books in this form. Plus thousands of albums. Imagine the excess baggage charges. There are books which I will buy in traditional format. Yours, for example! But I am very happy that the two formats co-exist. (Just posted on Moneyball and the Sox. It's getting scary, as Yankees are starting to rest key players for series against the Rays.)