As an English Literature student, I can’t help but feel that it is my duty to protect the sacredness of books in their physical form and to consequently disown all eBooks and everything they stand for. But in seminars and coffee shops alike, as I look around at the numerous glowing screens of Kindles lighting up the tables, I wonder if I’ve got it all wrong. If I should be accepting this evolving literary technology rather than turning up my nose up at it.
The problem is, when I imagine my future house, like many other book worms, I always imagine a library room like this:
But if I have a Kindle, or other form of eBook – HOW WILL I HAVE A LIBRARY ROOM?!
There’s something so satisfying about buying a new book (or an old one if you’re a poor student like me) and opening it to feel the pages and smell the cliché new book heady scent. It’s the little things in life like these which keep a girl going and I can’t imagine that the push of a button will ever compare to a turn of a soft paper page. And what about the artwork of a book? The paratext? The experience of a book is in the physical picking up of it, glancing at the cover, turning it over to read the blurb and to check the inside cover. No amount of technology will ever be able to recreate that and frankly, why would you want to?
Redecorating and sorting out my room last month brought up the heartbreaking dilemma of having to throw away some books, simply so they could fit on my bookshelves. A conversation with my mother about the value of books occurred:
Mum: “I don’t think you’ll be able to sell those Enid Blyton books.”
(N.B. Those Enid Blyton books being a collection of about fifty Enid Blyton books from the 60s, given to me by my mum and the staple of my childhood literary diet)
Me: “Well it doesn’t matter anyway. I wouldn’t want to sell them.”
Mum: “But even if you did. You wouldn’t get much. They’ve got no market value.”
Me: “But it doesn’t matter! I don’t want to sell them! They’ve got too much sentimental value.”
Mum: “Ok. I’m just letting you know that nobody would want to buy them.”
This was a traumatic conversation with my mum and her Kindle Fire completely failing to comprehend how much these books mean to me. And how I want to keep them to give to my children. And never sell them. EVER.
But then again, I can’t help but admire the practicality of a Kindle. After another back-breaking journey to and from university, in which I carried a Complete Works of Shakespeare, an Anthology of Criticism and a couple of other paperbacks, my aching bones were telling me that there must be another, easier way. One that didn’t leave me permanently crippled. And how about the fact that I could make more valuable space in my suitcase if I brought just one Kindle rather than my usual stock of holiday fiction? All my books in one place could be convenient, annoyingly so. And they’re so much cheaper in digital version too. Sometimes it feels like I should embrace the inevitable and stop making such a fuss.
But ultimately, I’m an old fashioned girl when it comes to books and I don’t think I’ll be getting a Kindle any time soon, particularly because I simply can’t afford one at the moment. I still maintain my dream of a cottage packed to the rafters with books and redecorating my room last month proved to me just how many books I have and treasure in their physical form. But that’s not saying that I won’t be picking up a Kindle in the future. I just hope that the same digitalisation won’t happen entirely to books as has happened to music, and that in the future books will still be treasured, not just for material value, but for sentimental value too.