Thursday, 15 October 2015

How do you read books?

Reading has been one of the most important activities I have engaged in since before I could decipher words. As a writer my reading has underpinned my entire career and knowledge of how books can be created. But this week I had quite a wake up call.

I was sitting one evening last week reading a book. A physical book. A paperback. With paper pages.
Right - good we've established that.
When I got to the end of the page ( somewhere in the middle of the book) I - well - I swiped across the physical paper. I did - I actually swiped!
Astonished I looked up at and caught the eye of the better half. "You won't believe what I just did," I said and told him.
He shrugged and with a slight grin said,,"What? For the first time?"

So its finally happened. The total transfer of my decades old brain from the physical to the virtual. After reading books - physical with paper  pages - since before I could actually decipher words - my brain has been taken over by widgets/pixels/elves/ Martians/whatever and it now expects me to swipe instead of thoughtfully or swiftly, wearily or feverishly, take that holy paper between my fingers and turn the page.

I'm not quite sure how I feel about this but it made me stop and think, How do I read my books in 2015. How do any of us?

The grandbaby is nearly one now and is learning books - the reading direction, the expectation of the page turn, how to flip a flap, the gentle lilt of story as it is read, exclaimed over, pictures pointed to, buttons pressed to make the truck or the fire engine sound. This is how I started - the physical book, the picture, the paper page. I have no idea what I would do if I couldn't read my books.
But the truth in 2015 is that no matter how much I revere the physical book, this is no longer the sole way in which I enjoy books. And for the grandbaby it certainly won't be.

I have a kindle.
I have a Kindle app on my smartphone and my tablet. I am constantly downloading and swiping screens. I read books on my phone on the tube. I never need be without my copy of War and Peace again in my entire lifetime because it is neatly settled on the app on my phone - which goes everywhere with me naturally - and it takes up no space at all - literally and virtually - in my handbag.

So this is how I read books :-

  • I cruise through bookshops, picking up, flicking through, staring, daydreaming and considering books.
  • I wander libraries looking through the biography and history sections in particular.
  • I fill my house with books and have them in favoured piles which I can dip in and out of.
  • I read entire physical books. I usually have an upstairs book and a downstairs book. But I might also be reading a book on my Kindle.
  • I find it hard to pass a charity shop with their variously stocked shelves
  • I download books onto my kindle/smartphone/tablet and read a flat screen and lose myself but it is different. There is not the physical engagement with the artefact.
  • I read with the grandbaby.
  • I read aloud to myself/the better half/ audiences.
  • I listen to books being read on the radio.
  • I listen/watch any programmes about books which cross my path.
  • I have developed a new passion for hardbacks. It's been life long of course but its just on an upsurge at the moment. I sit there stroking the book as I read it, its beautiful cover, wonderful end pages, neatly ironed ribbon bookmark, often in red, and the wonderful quality of the paper. You can't do that with your Kindle.
Picked this little bird book up in a second hand bookshop. Irresistible. Has commentaries by Enid Blyton!
I hope I don't continue to swipe the pages of my physical books. I felt such a numpty.
I plan to go on reading and engaging with books for the rest of my life.
I hope my plan works out.

And then there is the writing of books - but you've probably had enough by now.

How do your read books?


Sue Purkiss said...

Yes - so many ways to read books! It's really not turning out to be a case of one or the other, is it?

Sheena Wilkinson said...

Lovely post, Miriam, and reinforces everything we know about the story being the most important thing, though The Book is a lovesome thing, God wot!

Joan Lennon said...

You trying to swipe a paper page made me hoot! Thanks for this post! And yes, all/and not either/or.

Nick Green said...

Swiping is nothing. The real sign of madness is where the print is too small, and you try that strange 'un-pinch' thing with your fingers to make it bigger.

But this is nothing new. In my first job, which saw me using a computer all day for the first time, I learned CTRL-Z to undo stuff. A few weeks in, I spilled my tea on my desk, and - for a split second - my brain was reaching for a CTRL-Z, before realising that in this case there was none.

Jen Robinson said...

I read in print, on Kindle, and (in dire straits) on my phone. As I've hit that age where my near vision gets worse every day, I've appreciated digital reading more. And of course I love it when I travel. So I think you could say I'm shifting a bit more towards digital reading all the time...

Yesterday I was reading a print book to my daughter, who is five. I try to only read to her in print, though she dabbles in apps on her tablet. We're reading the graphic novel/nonfiction title Human Body Theater. There was a point where a skeleton TALKS about dancing, and she said "It would be cool if you could just tap here and see him dance." Which made me think, ok, maybe I should let her read more digital books. But it also showed that she could imagine that just fine anyway.

Miriam Halahmy said...

Love all your comments - oh God Nick - is that what I'll be doing next! Jen - the grandbaby is only one so God knows what is coming!!

Katherine Roberts said...

There is supposed to be a new reading app called Word Runner that streams words across the screen so you don't need to turn or swipe anything. And as a kid, I always used to think reading would be much easier if the words were printed backwards every second line so your eye doesn't need to jerk back all the time to the left of the page... never seen a book printed like that, but maybe with digital such things are possible!