Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Joy of Books

It would be a bit of an understatement to say there has been a lot of talk about ebooks lately. Just yesterday I read a very interesting blog post about over at Angry Robot Books, by my good friend Adam Christopher:


I think they’re a neat idea. Certainly as someone who has more books than actual physical space in my flat, I can definitely understand the uses of being able to have many many books on one small device. They also look very cool and swish, and it appeals to my love for all of this fabulous new technology we have- I may not use half of it, but it pleases me that it exists.

So why then do I read these articles and nod happily and still know that I have absolutely no intention of getting an ebook reader? If anyone needs one, it’s me- my appetite for books is clearly obsessive, and the regular argument with my Mum about where I can possibly keep them all gets more heated every week (not that I live with her- I think it just annoys Mum that I sort of filled up her house with books and then left, and now I’m doing the same with my own place…).

But in truth, they leave me cold. And it comes from a real, genuine (possibly obsessive) love for the physicality of books. We all talk about the pleasure of browsing shelves and the smell of second hand book shops, but for me it’s more than that even. I like the shape of them, the weight, the smell. I like that I can shove them in my handbag (sometimes two or three if I dump the nonessential items, like keys and wallets) or read them in the bath. I like the fine cracked lines you get on the spine as you read them- and it is the lowly paperback I love most of all, believe it or not. I like that feeling you get when you emerge from the bookshop with a bag heavy with new reads, each one a little world of new stuff.

When I am feeling sad- and this is possibly the most embarrassing evidence of my unholy book-love- I like to sit by my bookshelves and look at them all. Reading the spines, pulling out the occasional title that I haven’t seen for a while, smelling them… This has actually been known to make me feel better. It calms my soul and reminds me that books make everything right with the world.

Perhaps this book-love has been expanded by a number of sources. I studied book arts at college, learning about the beauty of a well put together book, as well as how to make them myself. I have a degree in illustration, and I’ve never met an illustrator who didn’t have an expansive collection. And I work for a company that are utterly committed to producing gorgeous, hard back slip cased books the old fashioned way. When I was very small I once accidently tore the page of my library book and I was inconsolable (I know, weird kid).

It’s not just about the story for me. Books are pages and spines and pictures and inky print. Books are sacred objects. Books are art. I love my battered old paperback copy of Perdido Street Station just as much as my signed, slip cased first edition of The Graveyard book- they are equally romantic and beautiful for me.
I am not an ebook basher. I think it’s a neat idea, I really do. But I cannot love them like I love the printed page.


  1. couldn't agree more.

    Hello, by the way, I'm Dave. I too am a bookseller in Manchester and love being surrounded by books at home as well as work. What you say here pretty much sums up my feelings exactly. I'd be scared of dropping an ebook in the bath and electrocuting myself. Don't get that with a book. I'd be scared of dropping an ebook on concrete and breaking it. I throw books around all the time; the more battered the better!

    Keep an eye on my blog, 2moro I intend to go on a Manchester bookshop quest in celebration of the humble bookseller.

    thanks for a great read


  2. Hello! And thank you!

    For some reason I forgot to mention my many years as a bookseller- no doubt that had a big influence on my book-love too. And yes, no expensive piece of electronic equipment would last more than five minutes in my handbag I'm afraid. It's a pretty harsh environment. ;)

    Nice to meet you Dave! I shall certainly be checking out your blog.

  3. You physically love books!?


  4. Ah, I can always count on you, Anon ;p

  5. I've an ebook reader, and I'm very fond it, but I still buy 'proper' books.

    The reader is very good of certain type of books, reading screenplays and documents, but newer books are just too expensive to buy as eBooks.