Embossed leather or Gorilla glass

P BOOK

I bought this book fifty years ago, from a second hand bookshop in town. At first I thought it might be Victorian- the restored binding had a nineteenth century look to it. But the printing itself intrigued me- it looked a lot older somehow- then I turned to the prayers for the sovereign. The owner of the book was asked to pray for the soul of King….Charles ! The book in my hand was about four hundred years old ! Whenever I take it down from the shelf, I always wonder how that little book managed to survive the English Civil War, the Industrial Revolution and everything that has happened since. Maybe the text doesn’t matter so much, but the book has been carried along on the waves of history…and ended up with me.

Do you think that, in four hundred years or so, someone is going to say “ Hey ! Guess what I found on Ebay yesterday ? It was a Kindlefire HD ! Yeh ! The really rare ones ! The only other one I’ve seen is in a museum !”

Somehow I don’t think so.

Old books have a patina, a smell of the past which is, for me, irresistible. I like the thought that someone’s eyes followed the text that I’m looking at now. I have the feeling of someone ahead of me on the path.

But it’s not just age which gives a physical book appeal. Books can be works of art- the paper, the font, the binding – even the dust jacket all add something to the process of reading. I like leather bound books…do you know why ? Because they smell nice.

So – physical books (especially old ones) good, and Kindle ( and Nook and all the others) bad. Is that it ?

No. I’m saying that it’s horses for courses.

With an e-reader you get the text, the whole text, and nothing but the text. No adornments, no nice smells- just what the guy wrote, along with one or two useful editorial tools.I’d pick a good novel on an e-reader over a bad novel bound in leather every time. E-readers pose a real challenge to authors. They are unrelentingly The Text and if the book is a good book, it will leap off the paper-white screen and into your brain like an ant on a hot griddle.

E-readers are democratic. They’re slick, relatively cheap and..let’s face it…rather cool. Leather bindings might belong to the crusty old blokes of my generation, but e-readers, and the stories they contain, belong to everyone. E-readers get everyone reading, and that can only be a good thing.

And they’re convenient. I’m off on the train tomorrow morning to visit my ancient aunt (99 and counting) and I’ve packed my Kindle because it has at least three books and a whole heap of music which will help me pass the time.

To sum up. I have my shelves of Folio Society and leather bindings at home, and my Kindle to see me through the train journey.

Embossed leather ? Gorilla glass ? I don’t have to choose.

But what do you think ?

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