Thursday, 10 May 2012

TIME FOR A KINDLE by Penny Dolan

I love books more than almost anything. I’m the very opposite of those people who find going into a bookshop to be a dull or anxious experience. Anxious is what I feel when I go into clothes-shops, shoe-shops or other shops.

Bookshops, especially good well-stocked bookshops, offer me a sense of relaxation and peace. I know where I am. I see lots of things I’d like. I don’t have to worry about size or fashion. My only fear is that I’ll spend, or spend too much. (True, there is the fear of not seeing one’s own books but today I am ignoring that angst.) 

I am not particular. I also buy from charity shops and bookstalls in hospital foyers and booksales at libraries too.

The upside is that I now have a house full of books. 

But the downside is that I now have a house full of books.

Many of the shelves are double-parked. I have thought about getting rid of a few. The problem is that, apart from the matter of each named genre, I have an almost subconscious book classification system that makes clearing any out that bit more difficult.

 For example, there are:

Books I’ve read and want to read again. (Or even again, again.)
Books, started, but not at the right moment for either of us.
Books, interesting: on subjects that might be useful or important to me one day.
Books, worthwhile but slightly dull: begun but now resting, for finishing one day.
Books, classics: that everyone has read. For reading – honestly - very soon.
Books, relics of ancient relatives: layers of guilt & sentiment attached.
Books, research: might still may be useful if ever I . . .(fill in blank).
Books, topic education: apparently superseded by tick sheets and laptops. Sigh.
Books, unread by favourite authors: suddenly spotted on shelves. (2nd copies poss.)
Books, holidays for the use of: not right o location and somehow not right since.
Books, unsought unsuitable review copies: lurid but attractive to woodlice and spiders.
Books, comforting, invalids for the use of: in case of long severe sniffles.
Books, hints, tips and analysis for writers: for reading when should be writing.
Books, diet: weighing as much or more as needs to be lost.

So many categories - and that’s only the beginning!

Then when I look round the shelves and floors and other flat surfaces considering just a little careful thinning out, there’s another problem. His books. My books. Our books. Books of contested ownership. Literally, a nightmare!

Now, suddenly, it’s simpler. There are e-books and kindles the size of a pocket. I see a new enticing title and the compact device whispers suggestive words. “It won’t take up any more space . . "
However, I’ve noticed newish kindle owners saying things like “Oh, the first thing I did was to download the whole of Dickens / the whole of Shakespeare / the whole of Tolstoy / the whole of  anything" before gleefully adding “For free!

I always want to ask, “Yes, but why did you do that? Do you normally read those books? Are those titles what you usually reach for when you want to read?  Or even “Great. How many of them have you read now?

But then I noticed that all the Andrew Lang Fairy books ready for downloading to kindle. Yes, for free! Hmmm. Suddenly that pocket-sized kindle idea feels mightily dangerous. 

I might end up with a home just as full of the books - problem still unsolved! – along with enormous quantities of virtual bookshelves. And I won’t even be able to see when they are double-parked.

Penny Dolan

Penny’s latest book is “A Boy Called M.O.U.S.E” (Bloomsbury)


adele said...

I know the problem well, Penny, about the overbuying of real books and the temptations of the free download but I just don't fancy reading a book on a screen. When my eyesight goes and I can enlarge the font to suit my ancient vision, then I might succumb. Till that time, I'm buying and also GETTING RID of a whole lot of books. THere are whole categories of stuff I routinely pass on. Review books to the library; thrillers to daughters; women's fic to my ma in law. The odd thing to friends and so forth. We had to cull TONS of stuff when we moved and it can be done!! Lovely post!

Damian Harvey said...

I know what you mean too Penny - and you Adele - the thought of reading on a screen just repulsed me. I love books and always have - and so does my fiancée who works in a library and shares books with children... so I was a little concerned when Vicky expressed an interest in a Kindle or Kobo (the WHS equivalent) but thought it would make a nice gift so went ahead and bought one.

I went for a touch screen Kobo (the touch screen kindle wasn't out at the time and Kobo's screen is reported to be the closest to print on paper). I added a couple of free books - and also purchased some of her favourite 'already read' novels and a couple of new ones by the same author etc. She loved it... and, reluctantly, so did I.

For my birthday, Vicky bought me a Kobo too - as our account is the same we only need purchase books once and they appear on both our Kobo's. I added Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy as I've always fancied reading that again, and bought Three Men in A Boat - a book I've always fancied reading but never got round to.

It feels like a guilty pleasure having a Kobo, but I really do love it. In it's case, which opens like a book, it really does feel like curling up with a book. It doesn't strain your eyes like reading from a laptop - as it isn't back lit (when it gets dark you need to put the light on) I won't be reading it in the bath, but then I've never read in the bath anyway - it would just wrinkle the pages.

There's also a tiny voice inside me that says I really do need to get to grips with electronic books as that's the way forward... though I just hate the though of standing in front of a class and scrolling through Kobo/Kindle to show them what I've written.

Anonymous said...

I felt the same way about the Kindle, until I got one. The screen is very easy to read, so much better than a computer screen or even an iPad, and with an adjustable font, as Adele mentions. And a big plus -I've read more books so far this year, due to the pure ease of buying, than in the whole of 2011. And the free books? Well, yes - there are lots, but I haven't delved into that many, despite downloading them in the first flush of purchase! My one regret - not doing enough research - I've since found out that our local library lends e-books, which work on every e-reader, except - the Kindle!

Joan Lennon said...

Culling ... so SO difficult! But perhaps all those double-parked books are providing extra insulation to your walls and THEREFORE are groovily green?

Emma Barnes said...

Made me laugh, Penny! I've got books in most of those categories too. I ransack my shelves for books I can take to the charity shop, and somehow end up with two dog-eared copies.

I've got a book called Post Industrial Change in Sweden. A pristine guide to DIY. A book on Provencal cooking. The most boring book ever written (it's on English folklore, and customs, which sounds interesting but really isn't). Novels by Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens (I hate Hardy and Dickens). But somehow I can't bring myself to get rid of any of them.

And I do have a kindle! It's lovely. I downloaded Wuthering Heights for free - and actually read it! (It was a choice by my book group.) I even have an e-book of my own out there, I realised yesterday. And looking at the Amazon charts, somebody has actually bought it!

Emma Barnes said...

By the way, Damian, Three Men in a Boat is a cracking read - you are in for a treat.

Penny Dolan said...

Adele, it's my own fault. I'm a fast, greedy reader and gallop through books to find out what happens - and later find that I can't remember as much about the book as I thought I would. I do amdire thos epeople who seem to recall everything about their reading. Plan to do better but sometimes life feels too short to take notes! (May have to set you on my bookshelves sometime. No, no!)

Damian, I do think we will ed up with amixed system - and that for anyone where there's lots of boring travelling involved, an e-reader must be wonderful. Had not even thought of the scrolling in class until now. oh dear! Though recently I did see a group being read what looked like a very dull story from a screen. Noted that the story was just screen length long. I shuddered.

Anonymous, the whole "Which "e" goes with the other "e"?" is the bit that puts me off. Can't seem to find ay information that tells me that there is One that does both or all options. Do other e-readers take the kindle system TOO, I wonder?

Joan, a good "green" thought. But also perilous when you try to find one title and several crash down.

Emma, so you have those titles too? :-) Did not even dare go into categories such "Hobbies I might have been accomplished at if I'd tried instead of thinking this book would work a miracle just because it was on my shelf."

Agree re "Three Men".It's like living in a more leisurely and kinder age for a while, even if fictionalised. (Horrid word.)

Ann Evans said...

Enjoyed your post Penny. As for Kindles, I'm enjoying mine. Big thanks to Damian and Emma for suggesting Three Men in a Boat, I've just downloaded it for free following your comments - and Moby Dick. Watched it on TV the other day and realised I'd never actually read it.Handy things are Kindles, I'd say.

Linda Newbery said...

An unexpected bonus of the Kindle is that I now use it to read through my work in progress, especially at the final stages. Whereas I used to print it out before doing the final revision, which meant carrying a thick folder of paper on train journeys, etc., I now read on the Kindle, which gives the necessary distance from the work on the computer screen. It just looks like any other book - and no one knows what I'm reading.

Unknown said...

Had this book problem, skirting came away from the wall upstairs and the book cases threatening to come through the floor!

Dragon ball said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sue Barrow said...

Your post made me smile Penny, not just because I could picture your double-parked bookshelves spilling on to the floor, but also because I'm just the opposite. I wish I could be more of a hoarder. Instead I regularly cull my stock of books, often later regretting the too-early disposal of nd having regretted the havebeen known to

Sue Barrow said...

Oops! Sorry. Didn't intend that to happen. I'm sure you get my drift.

catdownunder said...

Only double parked? Ours are triple parked. After my mother died my father indulged in bookshelves (She refused to have any more in the house). The shelves are triple stacked in some places. I just passed on a waist high pile of her craft books to a library - to make room for more of ours.
We have read almost everything on the shelves - at least 95% of the fiction and the non-fiction gets used all the time.
"Oh yes, your place has all those books." They make wonderful decor!

Arnold_Bax said...

In our house only the upstairs loo has no books. It is too small for bookshelves. Every other room has layer upon dusty layer. Even the kitchen and the utility room. Dust on books is not too bad. Once, in the famous Winding Stair bookshop in Dublin, I came across a miniature score for Beethoven's 5th. When I opened the bag upon getting home there was this terrible smell of death that had not been apparent in the bookshop. A little forensic work indicated that a mouse or some other warm blooded creature had died and decomposed on top of a row of books including this one. It left its stain and more along the tops of some pages. After a week out in the garage the book recovered and Beethoven's work was able to breathe and sing (though not hear obviously).