Bookblog 14th August 2010.
I have been considering, for a while now, the purchase of one of those electronic reader devices on which you can store hundreds, even thousands, of eBooks. The more they come down in price, the more tempted I am becoming. However, I must stress that this eReader is mostly in my mind for the purpose of taking away with me on holidays, and I have no intention of offloading any of my physical books, nor have I any intention of never physically buying an actual book ever again. Perish that thought! I don’t think eReaders will ever truly replace books and agree with the sentiments echoed in “Howards End Is On The Landing” by Susan Hill, which I’m currently reading.
Ok, on an eBook reader, you can have a virtual bookmark, but it’s hardly the same as having actual books. If I didn’t have actual books, what would happen to all those postcards, bus and tram tickets, business cards, old Christmas or birthday cards and clothing tags?! In a real book, you have the fun of marking where you’re up to by sticking anything in there, and the potential to make it something appropriate to the book or to the occasion on which you read the book or at least bought the book.
In years to come, anyone discovering my vast library of books may open one up to find an old System One bus card or a Metrolink tram ticket, adult single, £2, from St Peter’s Square to Eccles! Or they might find a clothing swing tag. Maybe a Manchester United or Nike one from my football shirt or even a tassled La Senza tag from some nice lingerie. Who knows? But it will give some social historian a fair idea of who I supported, places I shopped at and my frequent use of public transport, as well as the fact that I’d amassed plenty of books of varying fiction genres and non-fiction subjects alike. They may also find a postcard or two. Possibly one I’ve bought on my jaunts around the world, or one I’ve had sent to me by a friend or member of my family on their travels.
Now, I do believe some of these newer eReaders will allow you to annotate and highlight in eBooks. But there is nothing quite like some of the things you may find in actual books. When my mum and I moved to this house four years ago, it was from a much bigger house. Prior to our move, I had to offload practically half of my then book collection, and that was pretty large! Apart from keeping a few, most of my children’s books went, and most of my half-read books that I’d had to skim-read for university also went. I’d like to think that some people, somewhere, have got and are enjoying one of my old books and that their enjoyment is added to by any comments I may have written in the margins in pencil! I do recall, from my student days, that I was having to read a big chunky number, “Aurora Leigh” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and there’s a line in it about Aurora visiting my neck of the woods on her travels…
And once went farther and saw Manchester.
I am pretty sure I pencilled in some very pro-Mancunian comments in the margin close to that particular line! Someone somewhere has got that copy and I hope they are suitably amused! Well, either that, or the chunky novel, in poem form, is still sitting on the shelf of some charity shop or other, waiting for someone to buy it or for me to come along and re-purchase one of my own books, although for rather a lot less than I’d had to shell out for it back in the early 90’s when I needed to study the damn thing!
I couldn’t possibly do a comparison between actual book and eBook without pointing out one further advantage of actual books. That advantage being that you can get them signed. As someone who has several football autobiographies, I must stress that eBooks cannot compare with having an actual book and queueing up to meet one of your heroes, be that Eric Cantona, Denis Law, Sir Alex Ferguson or Sir Bobby Charlton, all of whom I’ve met and had autobiographies signed for me. In fact, I’ve got both Eric’s autobiographies signed, the English translation “My Story” and the original French autobiography “Un Rêve Modeste Et Fou”, which I had tracked down when in Nice with the City of Salford Youth Concert Band in the summer of 1995! I didn’t actually get Eric’s signed at book signings, though. One was at The Cliff, United’s former training ground and the other was at the former Nike shop in the Arndale Centre. I met Eric Cantona ten times while he was at United. He was an absolute gentleman and you could give him loads of stuff to sign and he would sign all of it and never complain. Many other footballers could do with learning from that!
And for the final good reason why real books are still better than eBooks, we have to go back to that age-old joke about why televisions will never replace newspapers, the answer being that you can’t swat a fly with a television set! Now, I don’t really want to have to use books for insecticide purposes, I’d much rather just read them, but if some stupid insect comes buzzing or at least flying around my room and annoying me, I’ve got plenty of books to hand with which I can attempt to swat the annoying little sod! Even if I purchased an eReader, I would not be using any electronic device as a fly swatter!
Howards End Is On The Landing – Susan Hill
Aurora Leigh – Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Un Rêve Modeste Et Fou – Eric Cantona
My Story – Eric Cantona