I went bookshopping today. This does not automatically mean spending money although that happened today – but it is one of the few browsing pleasures left to me since all the record shops closed. I hope the pleasure is not lost to the children of the future.
I have a long book queue at the moment and I am gradually switching from twitter to books again. I have a kindle full of books and have come to the conclusion that while it’s handy to drag around 300 books with you in your handbag, the truth is, there are disadvantages. I tend to know that I am reading a book about something or other but these days, because I never see a book cover, I often might not know what the actual name of that book is, or who wrote it.
I don’t like this.
And okay, the instant gratification thing is good with the kindle but then I have three hundred books on it and I definitely have not read 300 books. The interface for managing those books sucks too. The interactive design of a bookshelf has yet to be improved on by the nice engineers at Amazon. I’d prefer the books.
Against that, I cleared a house in Dublin and books are heavy. I cleared out a lot of them – Chapters got a pile of my fantasy books, for example – and I dumped some more. It pains me to think of it. I’ve accumulated some books here but most of my books are in Cork, such as are left in my collection. I read the last Philip Pullman on my kindle; I regret not buying the physical book and probably will, when the next book in that trilogy came out. But buying books, because of the hell that was clearing out the house, is fraught with guilt. I will most definitely move house again, at some stage. I regret not having my own personal library, a lot of bookshelves and a gorgeous grand piano. But such is life.
The downside of e-readers, I think, is that it changes people’s relationships. As it happens, during the week, I received The New Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan, and read it while doing some business travel. I have since loaned it to someone whom I hope will find it as fascinating as I did. But…the only reason I could do that was because I had the physical book. You cannot do this with ebooks. And yet, actual books can create so many conversations.
It is never just the words on the page.
I spent some time reflecting about the difference in my life now (usually stressed, too much to do) and my life 20 years ago (Saturday’s lasted a long time and the summer seemed full of weekends) and realised that when I was 25 years old, I spent my time in FNAC and Virgin, perusing books and CDs. Well one of those pleasures is gone.
Amazon cannot replace this pleasure; the smell of new books. Its recommender has been desperate lately, and the curated selections of my local booksellers fascinate me. Alinea, possibly the most dangerous of the bookshops in Luxembourg, does a sterling job. If I had shelves enough, I could have spent 1000E on books. When I might find the time to read them might be questionable. But they had many, many books I wanted, many books which tugged at my heart.
Somewhere on Facebook, I saw a comment that said that buying craft supplies and actually crafting were two separate hobbies. I could attest to that for yarn, crochet hooks, paint, paper. I think it’s true for books as well. There is something very special about wandering around a bookshop, exploring. For this reason, on the short list of things I miss from Dublin, Hodges Figgis is up there after the Pen Corner and Pichet. Bookshops cannot survive on browsers along – one bookshop in Luxembourg closed last year and one of their managers told me they needed to be selling three times as many books.
The easiest way for me not to lose the other of my simple pleasures – browsing bookshops – is for me to buy books as well as browse bookshops.
For this reason, my Christmas present to myself will probably be some more bookshelves.