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Archive for October, 2012

The writing in the book was odd, blocky, legible but unnaturally cramped. And unnaturally even. Every letter looked like every other letter, whether it was at the beginning of the word, the middle, or the end.

There was no personality to it. No human hand had inscribed these lines. It was lifeless, everything the same. No extra space after a difficult sentence to give a reader time to grapple with the implications. No space in the margins for notes or illuminations. No particular care taken on  a memorable line or passage to highlight it for a tired reader. Only naked ink and the unfeeling stamp of some mechanical roller.

The quote above, from The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks, is the point where Kip is first shown a book which has been printed by a machine rather than hand written by scribes. It struck a chord with me and my love of real, paper books compared to e-reader/kindle thingies. It made me think about invention and how stories have evolved from scrolls to books to ebooks. And reminded me of the funny sketch on YouTube of medieval helpdesk support explaining how a book works compared to a scrol. Watch it, it’s in Norwegian but there’s English subtitles.

I love browsing through a bookshop, picking up books, reading the blurb on the back and the first page or so, looking at the cover art, deciding what to buy. You can’t do all that with an electronic version. If it’s online, all virtual, you can’t fill your shelves with a loved series – all with matching covers (more on some people’s slightly obsessive need for that in a different blog). Buying is as good as browsing too – getting the new books out of the bag and looking at them again, choosing which to read first and tucking the others away for later – there’s a pleasure in the anticipation of opening it, of being drawn into a story.

Not for me the “Click”. Buy it.

“Click”. Open it.

“Click”. Turn a page.

And what about a book you read again and again – those ones that were pristine and have gradually over many years of being shared, and read and reread, now have a few loose pages, a sun-bleached spine, and probably rather tatty covers. There’s something lovely about that too – a book you can pick up and it drops open at a favourite point in a story. An ebook won’t do that. Nor can you share an ebook easily.

Books are more durable. Yes, you might get the corners wet in the bath, but they’ll dry quick enough. Even if you drop the whole thing in, there’s a chance of drying it off with a hairdryer and some patience. A Kindle dunked in the bath is broken. Dead.  And that’s all your books gone. Not just one.

Ok, so an ebook reader is probably easier to carry around than a hefty hardbook (I’m thinking of Rothfuss’ epic tomes in particular here) but I’m still a paper and ink girl at the end of the day.

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