Behind Emily Lines: I Like Big Books And I Cannot Lie
Reading Ramp? Chances Are, You’re a PLU.
If you’re reading Ramp, then it’s likely that you’re one of the gang – a PLU: ‘People Like Us’.
There are a few marked characteristics of PLUs. One is the habit of making entirely inappropriate remarks at funerals. The second is an over-dependence on the interweb, and the third is a deeply rooted love of reading – invariably linking back to a horrific stint as a teenager which we don’t like talking about.*
There we all were, one big, happy, book-loving bunch. And then along came the Kindle, the great disruptor. I’m going to say Kindle when I actually mean e-readers in general. Kindle is to e-readers what Hoover is to vacuum cleaners, really. So, given the extent to which we all love smartphones, tablets, blogs and social media channels, surely we’re the first to naturally embrace the technification** of books?
Books smell of magic – and you can’t capture those feelings in an electronic device.
For some of us, during the ‘years that shall not be mentioned’, books were the friends we never had. So the visceral response to their replacement with something hard, and cold and gimmicky is perhaps not so surprising. We’re the ones who might consider tattooing a quote from our favourite book. We drool over Tumblrs dedicated to images of bookshelves, and we simply cannot be trusted in a good book shop with a credit card of any kind. Books are warm. Books are kind. Books smell of magic – and you can’t capture those feelings in an electronic device.
When was the last time you bought a book?
In 2010, almost 13 million e-readers were sold. 48% of these were Kindle. The Kindle Fire alone sold 4.7 million units in Q4 of the following year, bringing Kindle’s share of the global tablet market to 16.8%. Are we caving in one by one, resistance finally gone, until we are just one more person not going into book shops anymore? It was a year ago when my favourite bookstore in Dublin closed down – Waterstones on Dawson Street. I have fallen in love and been dumped in that bookstore. I had planned to bring my kids there, to read under tables and get their first tingles of adventure. Did Kindle kill Waterstones?
I suffer a pang of guilt here. I own a Kindle, and there are lots of reasons why they are profoundly better than their paper counterparts.
Great Things About Kindles
- One click access to any book you ever wanted.
- Lightweight – Try putting Neal Stephensons’ Cryptonomicon in your handbag.
- It remembers the page you were on. Brilliant.
- The online dictionary, and translator.
- The highlight function – great for study, and just because.
And Some Not So Great…
Imagine a world with no book covers.
- No book covers. They say never judge a book by its cover. Well I LIKE judging books by their covers, thank you very much.
- Footnotes – one of the nicest things about Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is reading the extensive, and highly amusing footnotes littered throughout.*** Kindle puts these at the end of each chapter. By then, they have lost their relevance, their immediacy and their humour.
- No bookshops. How else are we going to meet other PLUs?
- No book smell. It matters, it really does.
Step Away From Facebook. BUY A BLOODY BOOK.
About two years ago, I converted to Kindle. And like any good zealot, I tackled the most traditional of my fellow bibliophiles, and tried to get them hooked. What I loved best was the ability to hear about a book, and then click – there it was right in front of me. It certainly fed my need to devour books. Then a month ago, I lost the damn thing. I was about to fly to Amsterdam. A flight, a few days off, and no Kindle? DISASTER. I tore the house apart. It was only at the airport it dawned on me, I could BUY A BOOK. What an idiot; I had actually forgotten they existed.
Then a week later, I walked into a book shop, to pick up the final installment of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. I had read the first two on Kindle. Instead of ‘click to buy’, I had to find a shop and browse for my next fix. I walked through the doors and the smell of books washed over me. The respectful hush, and the sound of pages turning. Quiet murmurs at the counter, and the colours! Rows of colour, typography tempting the eyes. It was like scratching some subliminal itch, and my inner teenager stopped sulking and actually smiled. I walked out with the book I wanted, and another, Gone Girl, which I would never have bought online. Something about the neon on black title called out to be read.
Are Kindles killing Our Bookshops?
Yes and no. Kindles are great, and getting better and more affordable with every new version. You can read 50 Shades of Grey on the bus with complete anonymity (apart from the blushes). You can take it on holiday. More and more of us will fall a little bit in love with this library in our pocket.
We will still want to buy the real books we love. We’ll keep buying copies of our true favourites, as gifts, as replacements. We’ll keep inscribing covers and we’ll continue to covet bookshelves.
The most important thing to remember is not to leave it too long between visits to our favourite bookshop. Don’t forget your best friends for too long, because one day you’ll pay them an overdue visit and they’ll simply be gone.
* There can be some exceptions. Some PLU’s don’t read at all, but they are almost always music nuts. Well, records are almost like books.
**Did you like that word? – I made it up, but you get what I mean, right? And that’s what words are for, when you get right down to it. If you can suggest a word that could work here, please tell me. ‘Computerisation’ wasn’t working for me.
***A bit like these footnotes. You just had to scroll down, which was mildly annoying, I’ll bet. Some things just work best on paper.