Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Books... and more books - Abi Burlingham

Okay, I confess, I am a bit of a technophobe. I am getting around this because I have to,
because that is the way things are, and I am becoming more comfortable with technology, with social media and all that this entails… well, a little bit! But here are some things you should
know: I don’t possess a smartphone (gasp) and I don’t have a Mac (even bigger gasp) oh, and I don’t have a kindle (stop gasping I say!) And here’s the biggy… I don’t want a kindle. No,
really, I don’t. I can see all the advantages that people frequently tell me about, while at the same time still shaking my head… “They’re good on planes”, so’s a book… “They’re good when you
go on holiday”, so are books… “They take up less room in your suitcase”, pack fewer shoes.

My mind resists them.
I can feel the kindle barriers go up at the merest hint of a mention…“Have you got a k….” VROOM! They’re up! But I appear to be in the minority, and feel that, as a writer that I
should embrace what could very well be my future. In fact, WILL be my future. ‘ Buttercup
Magic: A Mystery for Megan’, the first of my new series of books, due out in April 2012, is going to be an e-book – honestly, it says so on the back! Should I be pleased? I AM pleased, of course I am, but only because I know I should be. I have tried to examine the reasons for my resistance. My findings are as follows:

- We always had books at home – lots of them. As a child, my mum would read my favourite,
CS Lewis’s, ‘The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe’ to me night after
night. She would sit on the bed beside me, turn the pages, twist them round to show me when there was a picture, and put a book mark (remember them?) between the pages.

- I loved the Asterix books and comics and would devour them, laying them out at our dining room table and copying the wonderful pictures.

- As a teenager I would spend hours knelt by my parents’ bookcase, pulling books off the shelves, holding my nose to them and breathing in that lovely smell that only books have, turning the pages. Even if I didn’t actually read them, I would explore them and immerse myself in them. I remember as a teenager reading Germaine Greer’s ‘The Female Eunuch’, a collection of Sylvia Plath’s poems, and dibbing in to Gerald Durrell’s ‘My Family and Other Animals’, flicking to the pictures and marvelling at the way the paper became whiter and silkier on the pages
where the pictures were, at the covers and the little illustrations that decorated the spines.

- My mum had, as it turns out, one of the earliest editions of Cecily M Barker’s ‘The Flower Fairies’, and had traced around some of the fairies in pencil, leaving a light pencil imprint on the other side of the picture. This fascinated me, along with the triangles missing from the corners of pages and the pages that slacked as the cotton stretched.

- We had two libraries that we visited when I was a child, that I still have such wonderful recollections of. One was known as ‘The Pork Pie Library’ by all the locals because of its incredible shape, round, like a cake. This library left such an impression on me that I have featured it in ‘Buttercup Magic: A Mystery for Megan’. I still remember being overawed by the shape and size of the building, and remember the first time I ever saw a Miffy book amongst the shelves. I remember where I sat to look through it, how I felt at the time, small details.

Which brings me round to the reason the barriers go up. Fear. Fear that my children’s children won’t have this. That they won’t have book shelves in their houses full of books that they can take off and explore, that they won’t be able to sit on the floor and marvel at the pages with the corner turned over, or the handwritten name in the front, or the smell of the things.

So, you see, I won’t have one. I will remain kindle-less. Am I sad… am I ‘eck! I have my book cases bursting with books and will soon need another one… bring it on!


Karen King said...

Great post, Abi. I don't have a kindle either, although I've recently published two books on Amazon Kindle. I can see that there's advantages to ebook readers and Kindles if you're travelling but don't think they will ever replace books. You can't beat settling down with a good book and a bar of chocolate!

JO said...

Abi - if you don't want one, then don't get one! I don't want a smartphone, nor an iPad, nor a juicer, nor a double oven . . . buying into the consumerist 'must-haves' is for sheep.

And yes, I have a kindle. I do a lot of travelling. Last year I drove down the west coast of America (on my own, of course!) and read The Grapes of Wrath, in Kindle. I wanted a 'road-book' to go with my road trip, and the book itself is huge. So the kindle was fine.

At home - I read real books. I like the feel of them, the smell of them,their substance on the shelves.

But just because it works for me doesn't mean it has to work for you. (Would life be boring if we all liked the same thing!) So resist. It's more important that you read than run with the tidal flow and embrace all things technical.

Abi Burlingham said...

Oh, I have gone all hot! This blog should be published tomorrow and I don't know how that happened! I have pictures to go with it too to upload today - not sure whether to laugh or cry at this point... erm, thank you for your lovely comments! I shall try and compose myself now.

Nicola Morgan said...

Abi - I'm not sure why you feel the need to be afraid of the ebook. If you don't want one, you don't have to have one. However, there's a vast opportunity to generate new income and new readers through your ebooks and really the point is that this does not need to be a war between ebooks and printed books - join together and they can conquer the world; fight against each other and nothing is gained.

If physical books have the power that you say (and which I also believe), the power to engage all the senses, including the two most important to the human brain - sight and touch - they won't go away. So, don't worry - get writing!

Emma Pass said...

Fascinating post, Abi. Although I don't read a lot of ebooks at the moment (mostly because I have SO MANY paper books in my TBR pile to get through), I find the whole concept incredibly exciting, especially the idea of enhanced ebooks with extra material. But then I am a total tech-geek who is over the moon at owning her first smartphone (happy one-week anniversary, phone!), so I would!

However I love paper books too, for all the reasons you gave, and I can't see them disappearing just because some people prefer ebooks. Hopefully, as Nicola says, they can have a happy co-existence!

Abi Burlingham said...

Thank you Nicola, and Emma. All very valid points and I hope the two can happily co-exist. Alas, I suspect my children's children won't have the actual book choice, or experiences, that we
have had, and that book shops, already under threat will become something quite different.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I love gadgets - smart phones iPads etc - but I haven't felt drawn to the kindle. I don't have any problem with them, I'm not against them, I just love books. You used a very evocative image of sitting and looking through bookshelves and that strikes a chord with me. We always had lots of books at home, too, and the thought of a home without them seems odd. I like the feel, the look and the smell of books. Doesn't mean I don't like ebooks - whatever gets you reading is good - but I haven't yet identified a good reason for me to own a kindle.

Julia Munroe Martin said...

I love this post! I am also fearful about books falling by the wayside with all the technological advancements -- no question things are changing, big time. Still, I remain optimistic that when things settle out, books will still remain, perhaps changed somehow... but still paper. Only time will tell. (That said, will you hate me when I say I DO have a Kindle -- although I don't like it, my husband does. And a Mac -- I love it. And a Smartphone too. Nonetheless, I love the paper book. Still and forever.)

Abi Burlingham said...

Thank you Dan and Julia, loved your comments. Dan - yes, I love ipods too - very clever devices. But, like you, just not drawn to the kindle. I think I will want 'real' books forever! Julia - hate you? How could that possibly happen, you are far too lovely! I know a lot of people do like kindles though, and that's fine - as you said, it's the bigger picture that concerns me. Like you, I hope that the younger generation have the same passion for paper books as we have.

Essi said...

I have always appreciated technology, but never, never, ever want an e-book. Once a Kindle-owning friend said that "books are just time-less space." I nearly cried of what our generation is going throught. Keep up the battle, Abi!