Why Kindle doesn’t light my fire.

This post is a reply to this week’s Mind the Gap on the Weekly Writing Challenge, which asked the following question:

How do you prefer to read, with an eReader like a Kindle or Nook, or with an old school paperback in hand? 

I am sick today. My kids have kindly passed on the dreaded lurgy to the family head nurse. My lungs are trying their best to turn themselves inside out and escape from a home that is rapidly becoming a sanitorium.

So I’m going to bed. With a book. A real book. I’ve never had a Kindle, and I could never use one, except perhaps as a beer mat. Read on, and find out why.

A statue in front of a Pezenas bookstore that caught my eye (My photo).

When I’ve finished this, I’ll go upstairs to the bookshelf and run my index finger across the spines of my protégés. They are all lined up haphazardly, a mini Manhattan skyline of different heights, sizes, shapes and colours, all jostling together and crying out to be taken in someone’s hands. Each of them contains an escape route:  an imaginary realm and a fabulous plot dreamed up by someone else who has a passion for the written word. I have a vivid imagination, and tend to anthropomorphise my books. They all seem to be holding their breath in the knowledge that the happy winner will be taken everywhere with me – throughout the house, on the bus or train, in the garden. My faithful book will never have a flat battery or break down before I reach the end of the story. Lost in the depths of my handbag, stuffed in my pocket or tucked under my arm, the Chosen One resists the trials and tribulations of being shaken around, dropped or soaked by mischievous children on the beach, and remains with me until I have devoured every last word and returned “him” or “her” to the shelf.

It is difficult to choose between a well-thumbed favourite and the yet-to-be-read orphans that I regularly save from lonely charity shop shelves. Should I pick humour, a classic or a well-thumbed favourite? The choice is always a pleasure. Choosing a book to read is like picking a chocolate from a box: should I take a story with a mellow, lingering storyline? A bitter-sweet or dark suspense? Or a light, airy plot that fizzes and snaps and makes my mind explode with new emotions? Maybe I’ll take a hardback with a soft centre, or a malleable novel that is as easy to read as pouring caramel over vanilla ice cream. Touching books is of paramount importance to me; deciding from a list on a screen makes the book frustratingly anonymous, ephemeral. I often hesitate and continue along the row before returning to my first choice, holding two paperbacks in my hands and dithering.

Once my choice is made, I’ll curl up under my quilt with my book. Books are a sensorial experience, more than the cold Kindle could ever be. First there is the visual pleasure of the cover. The colours, the choice of the illustration. Then I close my eyes, flick the pages below my nose and inhale the smell of the paper.  I rarely pick up on the odor of fresh ink and new paper, a sign that I am generally drawn to comforting books whose ageing paper releases the occasional tell-tale whiff of home and family.

Then I read, playing with the corner of the page and enjoying the suspense of the developments lying in wait on the other side. Since my childhood,  books have been my springboard out of the real world into an imaginary world where I can happily soak up the emotions escaping from the ink on the paper.

One shelf of my personal playground.

One shelf of my personal playground.

One last point before I sneak upstairs to see my babies. A few days ago, I met up with a wonderful friend I hadn’t seen for too many years. When we finally released each other from a long-overdue hug, I religiously took two books from my bag and gave them to her. I had bought one for her six years ago and forgotten to post it. The other was one that she had lent me years back. When she saw it, she clasped it to her heart with tangible emotion. When she was finally able to say something, she explained that the book had been given to her by a friend who had recently passed away. So for many of us, the humble book is much more than just a physical support on which an author places words. It is not just paper and ink,  it is a physical marker of events throughout our lives, a lasting link between people and their pasts. Long live the book.

32 thoughts on “Why Kindle doesn’t light my fire.

  1. I agree about having a real book in hand. Turning the pages and smelling the paper, ink, and glue. There is a wonderful comfort in that. But, living abroad proposes a challenge. to having books in English readily available. I brought a few books from home, but most were for my toddler. I also have my kindle, it is a lifesaver. I would be left without more than the internet without it. Sadly, at the moment. The little munchkin is taking so much time. I will have to wait till she needs a little less attention to read. I miss reading a lot right now. Enjoy your book, and get well soon!

  2. I totally agree, but my bookshelves are crammed and I’ve read almost everything on them. I haven’t got round to my dad’s old Penguin classics of books such as Suetonius’ writings on deeds in ancient Rome though…

    My Kindle has introduced me to a world of books that I’d never have found – on the free-for-a-day lists. The one I’m reading at the moment is about Dante (of The Divine Comedy), where the author has decided that in order to write the Inferno section, he must have witnessed a zombie attack. Delightfully weird, but absolutely compelling, and well written (this one, if you’re interested http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B003DTMTXQ/ref=oh_d__o03_details_o03__i00) and I’m not even into zombie books.

    So for me, a Kindle keeps me in books. Without it, I’d be reduced to reading in French from the local library, and I much prefer reading in English. Hurrah!

    • My shelves arefull too, so I make little piles around the house, which drives P.F nuts. Must admit the Dante story sounds tempting…. I’ll wait till it comes up in print 🙂 Get to Emmaüs, they have whole shelves of English second-hand books! Have fun reading, and long live literature… 🙂

  3. I agree with you. I prefer a real book, I like the feel and the smell of a real book. Unfortunatly English books in Italy is a luxury that I can ill afford. I am tired of using my flight weight allowance on books, when I could use it on .. bacon or walkers crisps.

    My children bought me a Blackberry Playbook for my birthday and it is wonderful, just wonderful. When I travel I can watch films on it, read books access my e mails. Please don’t think I have took over your post to advertise Blackberry because I hate their phones.. But the playbook is fab.

    Oh get well soon. I hope hubby is running around cooking and cleaning.

  4. Poor Pecora. The choice between crisps and books is hard to make….. Take the marmite and the Heinz spaghetti out of your bag and you’ll have room 🙂 A blackberry playbook, huh? Sounds like it was produced by Fisher Price! Hubby is at work; Rugby Boy is taking my temperature and feeding me sugary Breakfast tea and paracetamol. What a darling.

  5. I wish you’ll get well very soon and, maybe, putting your nose into an old leather-covered book will do better than paracetamol.

    • Hello Papounet,
      Thanks for the get well wishes. There are three family members down for the moment; if all else fails I’ll ask P.F to whop me on the head with a heavy dictionary to put me out of my misery 😉

  6. I’m with you all the way, MM, and could have written this post myself, except not so well. 🙂 I’m steadfastly resisting any suggestion I get a Kindle, as I spend long enough reading a screen as it is and the physicality of books is part of their allure. The only thing that might make me give would be the total unavailability of real books. Life without reading isn’t worth living,.

    • Thank you! I totally agree – I ahve books all around the house, they reassure me. Maybe we should start stock-piling now; after all, Big Brother has already shown the innocent lightbulb out of the door…..

  7. I like my e-reader, but I LOVE being able to share my books with friends. With many major retailers, e-books aren’t actually the property of the customer and can be recalled in certain instances. That bugs me. My books are my books.

  8. hey MM I’m in both camps on this. I have a kindle called Andromeda but I left it all alone in our Croatian home by mistake (me bad woman, really bad woman), so I am back to reading the paperbacks, but totally agree about sharing books, and memories of people holding it, or giving them to us, the notes written in the front.
    p.s I hope it was not Pecora Nera giving you some virus over the internet (man-flu he calls it, tsz tsz. …). 😉

    • I had a look at a Kindle and it bugged me; after working on a computer from my job all day I really need a paper book in my hand. I’m sure that poor old Andromeda is doing fine….. As for Pecora Nara, he wouldn’t have done that, surely? Anyone who likes Walkers crisps is a good egg 🙂

    • Hello, Deborah, and welcome- pull up a chair and grab a cup of tea and an aspirin 😉 I guess that you’re in the middle of a house move; I’ll go and check your blog out right now. I do feel sorry for your books, they must be scared in the dark 😦

      • Hi, thanks for popping by. I need more than an aspirin – it’s a whole house BUILD, just the two of us! The books are really in the dark now as the electricity company has cut off our temporary leccy supply! Can you take aspirin with gin?:)

      • We can give it a try if you like. I have both, but not withing spitting distance of my bed 😀 I don’t know if you’ll be much use on site afterwards, though…. Poor you, no electricity: is that legal in this land of freedom, equality and fraternity?

    • Thank you 😀 Books are food for thought: afterwards, it’s all a matter of choice: one woman’s chocolate cake is another’s rice pudding, so they say. Welcome to the blog, please come back for a virtual cup of tea!

  9. I found my way to your blog today. I will stay, even though I disagree on e-readers. I love my Kindle.

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