Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A World Without Books

Books seem to be a very hot topic of conversation at the moment in the blogosphere and round the dinner table, the main issue seems to be books versus kindle or other forms of E books, personally I am definitely in the book camp however I do see the benefits of kindles and E books.  Let's face it carrying around one smallish piece of technology, with downloadable access to thousands of titles is preferable to lugging round heavy books, E Books are also beneficial to the environment cutting down on paper and distribution, I recently saw a news report regarding Africa, where for the first time children in remote villages, are now able to access text books and titles, previously unavailable to them, thanks to the internet, E Books and kindles, thus radically improving their education and ensuring a brighter future for themselves and their communities.

Despite all this I still cannot bring myself to even think about purchasing a Kindle, I love books, not just the words contained between the pages but the books themselves, new books, old books, ancient books, paperbacks, hardbacks and coffee table books, I love the way they smell, I love reading the covers and leafing through the pages, I lovingly slot them onto shelves or place them on tables, desks and sideboards, I even have a small library in the loo!  After reading, they will often be revisited, consulted for reference and shared with family and friends.

And what about the high-street bookshops and library's? apparently bookshops both independents and chains are struggling to compete with the might of Amazon and their ilk and library memberships are in decline, library's across the globe are closing.  Living in deepest France, with no immediate access to English books, I rely on Amazon for my book hit, and despite,'wish lists, access to reviews, people who purchased this title also bought that title, you may also like this, personal profiling and recommendations', there is still nothing to equal browsing round a really good bookshop or library.

Are we really the last generation, who will clamour after tangible books?  Will future generations regard paper books as antiquated dust gatherers? Watching news coverage of children who queued overnight outside bookshops to get their hands on the latest Harry Potter book, I would like to think not, I saw the delight on their faces, when they got their hands on those books, would a downloadable E book create the same excitement?

And what about the authors themselves? Will self publishing and E Books cut out the need for publishers and herald the demise of the professional writer?  I hope not.
Progress cannot be stopped, the digital age is here to stay and even though there are many practical benefits for the Kindle and E books, I hope books as we know them, will be around for centuries to come, I would like to think that the world has room for both.

I dedicate this post to my friend Kathy who sent me a link this morning, which triggered this post.  It's a fascinating article and a little scary, if you have a few moments follow the link and read it, I would love to hear your thoughts: click here

Shakespeare and Co

Nigella Lawsons Library

Karl Lagerfelds Library

Rudyard Kipling, Sir Philip Burne-Jones, 1899


  1. Well, I certainly hope there is always room in this world for the professional writer! I love your illustrations, as always. My favorite "Bibliotheque" is Nigella's. It seems cozy and I would love spending time there. Thank you for another great post. Veronique Aka French Girl in Seattle

  2. I'm sure the professionals will work it out. It'll just take a bit of imagination and creativity.

    What won't be missed though is the restricted choice and imposed reading material by publishers who previously decided what you could buy. There's an awful lot of celebrity dross out there.

  3. I love and adore books and would never give them up. A kindle will never replace a gorgeous photo or "coffee table book". But I love my kindle too. And in the States, the public libraries offer e-books on loan for 2 weeks, without having to go visit your library. But you do need a card. So our library has actually increased it's membership in that way. There is nothing like a kindle for portability and ease of access. But there is nothing like a real book. I think the two can co-exist.

  4. I'm for books...but I've been given a Kindle so that I can avoid carrying a heavy book when waiting at hospitals, etc...
    All I have to do now is find out how it works...which is baffling me.
    Yes, fine for utility, but give me a book for the pleasure of handling it.

    I'm with Sarah on the rubbish dished out by publishers...let's have some e freedom.

  5. E-books and audio books are wonderful technical advances, but I still love real books.
    And that library with the secret door...I'll take that too!

  6. I'll add my two cents...

    Libraries and conventional books will continue to co-exist with Kindles and other forms of technology in the marketplace. Libraries, at least here and in the UK provide varied formats to the readers that need them, ie large print books, books on CD and the like. Libraries suffer cutbacks and closings largely due to the ignorance and dare I say stupidity of people who believe that everyone has access to Google so the library is superfluous. This is erroneous to put it politely. Here, when times are tough, more people than ever swell the ranks of library users and while library budgets have been cut, they have not been closed and continue to provide programs and services geared to the communities they serve. The next visit you make to blighty, go and talk with your public librarian about things. You'll find out that libraries and the brainy librarians who work in them will adapt to changes and survive into the future.

    I'm a book lover as well as a librarian.

  7. Hello:
    For our own personal taste, we are firmly in the real books camp, even preferring to cart heavy tomes around rather than succumb to the dreaded Kindle.

    However, we should like to think that there is room for both real books and e-books in the world at large as new audiences for reading are opened up rather than choices limited.

    We are saddened by the closure of some libraries but are heartened by those enterprising libraries/learning centres which are reaching out with old and new technologies to young and old alike.

  8. I definitely take Morrison's "long view" - it's a frightening reality that so many creative industries are becoming in some form, extinct. I'm a bit old-fashioned and don't really like the idea of reading a book on a screen. For a start, reading from Kindle doesn't feel "right" - what am I holding? Where is my bookmark? If I splash tea on my page will it dry out? Can I leave a couple of books strewn around the house to pick up and put down depending on my mood? Can I read while sunning on a blanket outside? I know these are very basic-level questions to the whole issue of creativity being strangled by technology, Morrison cites photography and music as victims too, but I get so much pleasure from watching a book become worn out from love. I want to welcome Kindle to the world of reading, as I can see the sense in the device for travelling, commuting etc, but I can't get excited about that sort of reading device. It's paintings like your first one (knees clamping a book, teetering absent-mindedly on a ladder) that make me feel joy in the world of books. xoxo

  9. If reading is the point, then I guess choice is good. But I mean choice. I don't want to see books disappear. I love books. I love 'the thing-ness' of books. I love the covers, opening a new book to the title page, turning pages as I read - not scrolling. I also love the way they look en masse - in book stores, libraries and homes. I love visiting someone and looking at what they read. I love little book shops when you walk in and you just know how much the people there love books. The excitement when something special arrives.

    We are all becoming lemmings to the screen. It's numbing and sad.

    This post is wonderful. The photos are so heartwarming to a real book lover.

  10. I am loving my kindle - the portability, getting free samples before committing to buying, and the ability to increase the font size, (deteriorating eyesight due to age)but I do love coffee table books and recipe books, although I have to confess that when I am in a hurry I Google recipes and read them from my laptop as I cook.

  11. What stunning images! How wonderful to have books on shelves rather than in artful heaps around the house.
    I can't imagine a Kindle ever being something I'd own. All my books are second-hand and I love it when they're a bit tatty around the edges,with an unexpected bookmark, highlighted passges or an inscription lovingly etched into the flyleaf. Makes them feel like living objects with a history. x

  12. I am from Asia. In the past, growing up here surrounded by books is rather a privilege and being educated and well red particularly is quite a status quo. When we read, we write down few new words to learn it; and we jot down some insights to use it. However, recently after the birth of the net era, the freedom of web browsing coupled with the proliferation of new gadgets made new students too dependent on the on-line info, barely reads the contents, copy and paste made easy which made some barely spell right. Let’s face it, the web is full of on-line crap.

    For me, nothing beats reading the “real” book. I agree with you, flipping the pages and even the scent of the book brings unexplainable bliss. Downloadable e-books do not made justice to the hard work of the author. Audio books will just make people lethargic (though these are useful for blinds). Gadgets will get obsolete. Papers do not. Printed books can be pass on from generations to generations.

    I believe books are eternal. It may be the global companies that dictates the technological trends, an environment advocacies that curb down uses of paper printing but books are irreplaceable.

  13. Veronique, Nigellas library is quite something, I would love to have a good rummage around the books in there!

    Sarah, more choices can only be a good thing, I have noticed in the larger book chains, they do seem to push 'celebrity biography's' I assume most of them will be ghost written, some of these celebrity's are so young, I have not even heard of half of them! Still the younger generation obviously enjoy them and at least they are reading.

    Stephanie, I am glad your local library is thriving and moving with the times, it's good to hear that you enjoy your Kindle and tangible books. I am intrigued though, if you downloaded a book onto Kindle that you really loved, would it move you to buy the paper book?

    Oh Fly, I hope you manage to figure it out soon, otherwise you will be carrying heavy books around again!

    Belle, Mmmm the library with the secret door, I wouldn't mind one of those either.

    E, judging by your and Stephanie's comments, libraries in the USA are obviously faring better than the UK, in the last 10 years 200 libraries across the UK have shut down and over 300 libraries, were earmarked for closure at the beginning of this year, your right this is due to local county council cuts and the erroneous belief that because of social change and growing internet use that libraries are superfluous, I am glad to say there has been a real outcry, local communities are fighting hard to save their libraries, well known authors, actors and musicians have also lent their full support. I think it's gone to the high court now. I really hope these libraries will be saved. I think it's sacrilegious and extremely short sighted for local councils to even think about library closures.

    The local library in my home town, however is doing really well, it reopened last year, after a two year, multi million pound refurbishment (obviously the wheels were set in motion, before the recession) it has adapted and offers; public access computers, wifi, reading groups, author talks, art exhibitions, childrens story hour, foreign language books, DVDs, video games etc. Its very well funded by the 'pro library' local county council and hugely supported by the local community and of course, clever and talented librarians!

  14. Jane and Lance, I agree, I think there is room for paper books and E books and hopefully, more choices will open up reading to new audiences.

    Will be back to respond to all the comments, have to go and cook dinner!

  15. So if quality writing depends on securing an advance from a publisher to be a "professional writer" did any writer's first book ever get written?

    Since buying my ereader I have discovered a couple dozen wonderful writers that I would never have been able to read before, because no publisher could be bothered to put out their book, or if it had been published, it wasn't promoted. I am happily buying their work, and feeling good that the lion's share of what I am paying goes to the author.

    I love books, probably own thousands, and I am not worried that they are going to disappear any time soon. A quick scan of my ereader and my bookshelves shows that I bought just as many books as downloads over the last year.

  16. Desiree, I feel exactly the same; "reading from Kindle doesn't feel right" and I can't imagine a Kindle being worn out from love.

    Sharon, I love browsing the bookshelves in my friends and families homes and when I was commuting it was great to see what books people were reading. I love little bookshops too.

    Mrs P, being able to increase the font size of the text is definitely another benefit of the Kindle that I had not considered. Despite the hundreds of cook books I own I also google recipes.

    Vix, I love second hand book shops and books, they are living objects with a history.

    Nean, there is no doubt that the technological age has made people lazier, it's all too easy! Tangible Books are irreplaceable.

    Carlarey, those are very interesting and positive points you have raised. You have answered the main question I was curious about, that you do buy books as well as downloads. From my own experience with music I can tell you that since I got an i phone, I have not bought one CD, preferring to download all my music, I don't have the same reverence for CD's (I actually prefer vinyl!) I was worried that people who do have Kindles would stop buying paper books.

  17. Dash,
    E-publishing is never going to catch up to all the wonderful books that are in print. If anything, I think digital publishing will make actual books more precious and respected. If publishers are smart, they will latch on to marketing real books as something to be displayed and treasured.

    Who knows, maybe we will revert to the days when having a personal library was a mark of status. I have read books digitally and then bought the hard copy because I wanted to have it on my shelf.

  18. By all rights I should hate Kindles. I have more books than anyone I know. The house is full of them and you can't get me past a second hand bookshop without me making a mad dash inside and spending a fortune. But I love my Kindle. There, I've said it. It's not the first thing I turn to - I will always prefer a physical book - but it is so damn useful. I am sick to death of breaking my back on holidays filling my entire hand luggage allowance with books. I read a lot and I read fast and the Kindle is wonderfully handy. It doesn't feel the same as a book, obviously, but it's much better than reading on a screen due to the way it's lit.

    I don't think it'll herald the demise of the professional writer at all. The savvy ones are just exploring new options. E and self-pubbing means that authors can re-release their back list, they can give away books at special low prices or free to try and tempt in new readers, they can write books that their editors and publishing houses won't let them write because "there's no market for it." Esp in the romance genre, there are a LOT of authors doing it well and challenging that stereotypical view.

    The only change I can see it making in my book buying habits is that I might start to tier the authors I buy a bit more. There are a lot of authors and books that I *must* have in paper form and that won't change. The ones that I want to read but am not desperate to own, I will either get from the library or see if they're cheapish in Kindle form. I've already ended up buying paper copies of some titles that I snapped up cheap on the Kindle and then fell in love with. Actually now I come to think of it, the Kindle is making me buy more new books. I tend to get most of my paperbacks secondhand and the authors aren't profiting from that at all, unless I like them so much they move up to that top tier!

  19. There are so many books out there. I prefer kindles or E book for the ones which are lacking in depth, thoughts, plots, too many swearing words but very funny or soft porn likes. But for the beautifully written ones that I love to re read, provoke thinking and leave a mark, I prefer them in paper format. I also love the art of book binding,e.g. coptic binding, French stitch etc. I don't think paper books will disappear completely.

  20. I received my kindle as a gift and was mortified that a friend in the US spent so much money on a birthday gift for me (living near Biarritz) because I so loved books! I love everything about them. I now love my kindle as well! It would be like comparing dvd's to going to the cinema ; a different way to enjoy a movie or rather a different way to enjoy a book.


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