I've been thinking about buying an eReader. I don't have one, and whenever I've bought an ebook it's been to read on my phone. So far that's limited what I've bought to short story collections, mostly. And even those are a bit of a pain to read on such a small screen. But then I started thinking that I didn't really want an eReader. Not yet, at least, and I had a look at a few in various shops and they didn't seem that great, to be honest. So I thought about writing a post about how rubbish eReaders are. But then I didn't like the negativity of that.
Instead, I decided to write about how great books are, and put into words why I think books will always have a place in my heart. A lot of these reasons, if not all, have no digital equivalent. Or at least, not one that I can think of.
I love small hardbacks. I think they're pretty much the embodiment of book perfection. I'm talking about the ones that are about A5 size, and are hardback but don't have a dust jacket. They're substantial without being too bulky, portable but far more hard-wearing than a paperback. They feel right in the hand, they're beautiful to look at, and they exude quality.
|Gorgeous, aren't they?
Folios / Special Editions
There is, I suppose, an argument that putting fancy packaging around a book is gilding the lily. Well, perhaps that's true to some extent. But although the words are obviously the most important part, there's something desperately sad about books being considered no more than simply their text. People can be sniffy about novels with pictures, too - but how could you not love a copy of Cold Comfort Farm illustrated by Quentin Blake? Or a book of Irish short stories, spiced up with a few bold, stylish block prints? Add to this the hard-to-quantify aesthetic differences brought by high quality paper and clothbound covers, and you have a reading experience that feels like a real indulgence. The way it should be, really.
|Folio editions: making wonderful books even more wonderfuller
No matter how beautiful books are, they are (in the main) mased objects. There's not much to distinguish one from the other. So, having the author scribble on the front page is the perfect way to turn a run-of-the-mill book into something unique and individual. The basic signed book, such as those the author signs on behalf of a bookshop, are great in that they have that "touched by the pen of..." quality, but even better is the signed and dedicated book. Having the actual author write your name in your copy of the book, personalises it in a way that can't be bettered.
|Sarah Hall added the "Good Luck!" when she found out I wrote short stories...
I'm not really a book collector, but I do keep an eye out for first editions.
|Steven Hall's "Raw Shark Texts". Apparently the very first printings had the first three pages in green ink. But I'm happy with this one.
|My treasured A Scanner Darkly first edition. Definitely not one to read while eating spaghetti bolognese
Variety is the spice of life. Though cliched, it's entirely true. I'm uncomfortable with the idea of books (or music albums, or films) just being filler for a little black box. I like to see creativity - it inspires me, makes me want to be creative, too. Even within the relatively tight constraints of a standard book format - it's pretty much rectangular, it's made of a wad of pages with a cover wrapped around three sides - there still seems to be huge variety in how books are presented. A row of thumbnails on a virtual shelf, or a real bookshelf jostling with different sizes, shapes, thicknesses, materials and designs? No prizes for guessing which appeals more to me!
|The fantastically innovative "An A-Z of Possible Worlds" by A.C. Tillyer - a collection of short stories, printed individually and presented in a little storage box.
So, that's why I like books. Have I missed any reasons? What do you like about those lumpy paper-stuffed objects cluttering up your home? Or have you made the leap to digital and will never go back to dead trees?
I'm judging the Erewash Writers' Group Flash Fiction Competition. Up to 500 words themed around "Start" - it could be the start of something, a couple trying to start over, a car that won't start, you name it. It's free to enter, you can win a copy of Somewhere to Start From, and the winning story will be published on the EWG website (global exposure for your work!). The closing date is 21 March 2013, so get going! I listed a few tips on how to make your story stand out, HERE. Good luck!