I wanted to start this blog with a subject close to my heart. As this blog will mainly focus on all things literature, I decided to create my very first post surrounding the internal struggle I always find myself in whenever it is time to read something new. You can’t quite describe to a non-bookworm the anticipation that is felt when you are looking for a new story to immerse yourself in. So many questions to consider. Which genre? Should I choose something deep and meaningful with lots of ambiguity, or something lighthearted and feel good which takes very little brain power? The possibilities are endless.
A few years back, a new question arose which I am sure many people found themselves facing when Amazon first released the Kindle back in 2007. According to Wikipedia, it sold out in just 5 1/2 hours and remained out of stock for 5 months. This was a clearly a revelation to book enthusiasts the world over and would be an invention which saw over 90 million Kindles being sold to date.
As stated in Techcrunch.com, by 2010 (just 3 years after the Kindle was first released) Amazon were selling more e-books than hardback/paperbacks and although the early models were bulky and a little cumbersome, there was no arguing with the figures that a revolution had begun.
So where does that leave us long term book fiends? I began with the firm stance of never venturing to the dark side and investing in a kindle, maintaining the claim that I was a hardcore reader who felt the whole reading experience came from more than just devouring the words. There is no comparison to the smell of the pages in a new book, (or an old book for that matter.) The sound of the pages turning in the silence of night, the feeling of satisfaction as you see your place in the book getting closer and closer to the end. I managed to stay firm with my bold statement….until I was given a second hand Kindle by a family member in 2011. And then all of a sudden I became the biggest hypocrite around!
So what is the appeal of this creation straight from the heavens? I think the most obvious answer which is always going to be a winner no matter the situation….convenience. Gone are the days when you finish a book and traipse to the library (when you find a spare minute and when it is open) to peruse the shelves in search of your next literary adventure. Suddenly, all the books you could ever want are at your fingertips and with the touch of a screen, are there for you to enjoy. For me, this was the biggest factor in switching to e-books. But what does this convenience mean for those individuals who do enjoy venturing to the library to soak up the peace and quiet and the opportunity to read undisturbed? I have concerns for the future of libraries and it is always in the back of my mind that one day, we may be without such a wonderful resource which I feel is not appreciated enough.
Written in an article from ‘The Guardian’, figures for library visitors were falling year on year as of 2010 with the epidemic stretching across Britain showing most cities being affected. However, I am given hope when researching what is being done to preserve our libraries and feel comforted in the knowledge that many view public libraries as an asset which cannot be neglected. April 2013 saw the opening of the heavily publicised and long-awaited new library in Centenary Square. From my own visit there, I found it to be an impressive building with modern and innovative architecture. Inside is just as exhilarating with floor after floor laden with numerous shelves of every type of book you can imagine. It reminded me of the scene in Beauty and The Beast which always thrilled me as a child….the Beast shows Belle his library (not a euphemism) and I always remember rewinding that part again and again just to see the perfection of each shelf with all of those books. Heaven.
Amazon continued to draw in more and more Kindle converts by introducing new features to make reading even more convenient. Smaller dimensions with a lighter feel, better screen resolution, improved battery life, water resistance (for those candle lit baths with wine and a book) and even a new feature called ‘blue shade’ designed to help you fall asleep easier following night time reading. It seems they have thought of everything. But have they considered book providers on a smaller scale? Such as those small, traditional book shops which enhance the authentic feel of tiny villages which are so few and far between nowadays? It seems we could have a real life ‘You’ve got Mail’ situation on our hands but rather than poor Meg Ryan losing out to the chauvinistic business mogul, it is our ever-expanding digital age which is damaging these wonderful treasures. For me, it has become a source of genuine excitement if ever I come across one of these quaint, little book stores….and I find myself drawn in to indulge my senses. Maybe this in itself is what means these kind of shops will never die out. They have become a novelty where they once were commonplace.
But what has the era of e-books done for the opportunities of budding and existing authors? I read several articles online involving the bypass of paperbacks for authors who were heading straight to audiobooks. There are also more opportunities given to writers with the first sparks of an idea with the introduction of ‘Kindle Singles’. All you need is to type your ideas or story in an email and send them over. Gone are the days of drafts, redrafts, editing and numerous setbacks from publishers. So does this mean less work for our modern day writers? Surely this retracts from the very essence of story writing. We want our authors to bring characters to life on paper who are so enthralling, we feel as if they are our closest friends when we finish the last page of a book. I’m just not sure this can be achieved as satisfyingly with spoken word. But that is a blog for another day.
So on the subject of less effort from the literary genius’, it could be said that this transposes to a more careless attitude from readers. We are so spoilt for choice with books in the Kindle store, it almost becomes arduous making our way through ones which we only feel indifferent about. In days gone by with paperbacks, I always felt like I needed to persevere to get to the crux of a story, which I often felt pleased about when I reached that elusive turning point. Admittedly, nowadays I can find myself flitting from one book to another always keeping in the back of my mind that there is another book just a click away which might satisfy the craving more.
In conclusion. I don’t feel there is any clear winner in this endless debate and there is a clear debate for it. Trawling a variety of articles outlining similar thoughts, it seems that although stifling some of the more traditional book experiences, the promise of continuing the joy of reading is made more possible by merging with the followers of our digital age. After all, times are a changing and if you can’t beat them…I guess you have to join them.