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.

Advertisements

The serial liker.

At my tender beginnings in WordPress, I saw heaps of Gravatars piling up at the bottom of posts, and humbly wondered whether one day I would be gifted enough to have so many people  reading my blog. Eight months later, I am reassured to see the same Gravatars popping up regularly, proof that someone comes back because they enjoy reading my blog. So I’d like to thank the handful of people who read my blog. Also, my heartfelt thanks to the bloggers I follow, whose posts brighten my day.

Why the sudden profusion of thanks, you wonder?

Simple. It’ll probably make worldly-wise bloggers smile, but I have suddenly realised how gullible I had been in believing that everyone has actually read the article they claim to like. I thought everyone did it, and still hope that it is the case for the majority of bloggers.

You see, less than thirty seconds after publishing a post one morning, I was astonished to see an email from WordPress pop up in my mailbox : “So-and-so thinks your post is pretty awesome….” My jaw dropped open, and I quickly opened my blog and found the post, concerned that half of it had got lost in cyber space during the upload. It hadn’t. So how on earth had my mystery visitor read through it so quickly? Was he or she the Flash Gordon of the reading world, motoring their way at speed through the entire contents of the blogosphere before breakfast?

Curious, I returned to the WordPress category in question. There was my article, and my visitor’s Gravatar. I  scrolled through the other posts: in the space of minutes, my famished “reader” had devoured not only my several hundred words of personalised drivel, but also the articles published on the three following blogs. So in conclusion, my reader was not only skimming’s answer to Usain Bolt, but also magnanimously appreciated everyone’s style, managing to read and like all four articles in less time than it takes my cat to rip a bin bag open. Or maybe not. What if……

Yes, indeed. The serial liker had struck again, prowling on WordPress with his trigger-happy approach to the “like” button. Chasing through a category, he blindly clicks on “like” for every post he sees, marking his territory like a dog lifting a leg against fire hydrants in the desperate hope that the scent will lead back to his blog.

That was a little coarse, I know, but please bear with me. I may be a little naïve, but I think it’s a little risky claiming that you “like” a post without actually reading it first. There are several reasons for this, but here are a few:

  • If you don’t read through to the end, you will never see that when you to the end get and discover that there no interest or English understandable in the text is really, you may just look like a serious not very blogger, which new readers lead to your blog will not.
  • You could put your enthusiastic paw print on an article which quickly diverts from an innocuous title into opinions that you would never, ever want to be associated with simply because you haven’t read through to the end. It’s a bit like signing a blank cheque, with your reputation at stake.
  • Last but not least, you could simply peeve another blogger because you have used their blog as a springboard for your own, but left tangible proof that you didn’t  actually read anything. However, I can’t help wondering whether these visitors imagine that all the “likes” on their pages are 100% genuine….

I have decided to start using the widget that informs readers about the blogs I follow. Check them out, I recommend them because I have read them. More importantly, I really do follow them. They are all different and all bring me something new. I look forward to reading them every day.

When I click that I like a post, it means that I have read it, and liked it. Every. Single. Word.

If you have read through to the end of this post, thank you.  Just out of curiosity, I’d like to ask you for a little connivance:

Please leave me a comment at the end, even if it’s just a quick “hello” or a smiley, without clicking on “like”. Just to see who actually read this…. through to the end. I will be proud to visit your blog, I’ll read through to the end of the post, and if I hit that “like” button, you can be sure I meant it.  Promise.