I simply cannot comprehend e-books.
So much practicality; SO little basic sensuality. Grayson Perry predicts the sexual fetish of the future will be the swiping gesture used on touchscreens; I’m not in his gang.
I’m currently reading (and will in future be posting about) Candia McWilliam’s “What to look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness.” I’m not of one mind with Candia on many things, but something we agree firmly on is the sensual pleasure of paper pages. As an avid bookreader (and a fair old show-off about her average read of 700 pages a day … that’s just an unreasonable quantity) who loses sight, Candia finds herself aching with longing for the solitary and profound pleasure of reading. Despite being consigned to a future of audio books, she continues to buy books for herself and at one stage comments “Even to hold it was a proper physical pleasure.” It’s to this physical connection with a story that I return again and again to loved volumes; I cherish the physical toll a text takes over the course of a reading. Folded pages, wrinkled spines and wavy waterlogged covers from my bath-reading habit are markers of the journey that you’ve been on with the story, evidence of your own interaction with the words.
Because isn’t interaction why we readers love books? Films give everything to you on a plate, and throw in some nude scenes for good measure. But a novel is an interaction, as much about your experience of it as the text itself. In a church service I attended this morning, the vicar was dismissing this bit of literary theory for the Bible as it places as much importance on the reader as on the author – which, when the author is God, is a wee bit tricky. But the Bible as a book makes it even more true for me – patently, we aren’t supposed to take it entirely without context, and its greatest strengths are when a particular verse or story chimes with your personal experience and throws a new light on it. And ultimately, isn’t allowing for this connection evidence of the ultimate skill on the part of the author? He who thinks he’s planted all the meaning that its possible to extract from his story has not considered the determination of a University English Department desperate for a new angle, or indeed anyone other than himself.
You may wonder what this has to do with the innocent Kindle. Well, reducing the physical experience of reading to an anaesthetic swipe and jab, without distinct texture, smell or sound, is like going to a foam party in full waterproofs. Plus, isn’t it wonderful to have something left which doesn’t need batteries or insurance? Items which when lined up not only make you remember your experience of each, but also make pretty awesome decoration?
Long live the paper page, and I leave you with a thought from Candia McWilliams:
“Books, even alone in a room, have that quality [of forming relationships with the books around them]; they breathe; they can even, somehow parthenogenetically, reproduce.”