Monday, 7 January 2013

A Tale of Two Formats

To kick the new year off I decided to read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.  Now I know I have 2-3 copies of this book floating around on my bookshelves and in the boxes of books scattered throughout my house. After half-heartedly scanning a bookshelf I decided to search for it online and I was thrilled to discover it was free. I knew some of the classics were free, but until I searched for this book I had no idea that so many of them were available. It truly blows my mind that the greatest books ever written are available at our fingertips for absolutely nothing. Have a look here for yourself if you don't believe me. It was like Christmas all over again and I spent a couple of hours merrily downloading everything I hadn't read (the only downside is that my TBR list has now grown dramatically when I was supposed to be reducing it this year!).

After I'd finished my downloading spree I was suddenly hit with a wave of nostalgia for all of my books mouldering away on shelves and in boxes. I'd always assumed that one day I'd resurrect these faithful friends and read them all over again. Most of them already came from second hand bookshops and their yellowing pages and musty smell only enhanced the reading experience in my opinon, but after I'd seen them online these most treasured of possessions began to look more like relics from a bygone era. In the past when people argued about ebooks vs hard copies I always claimed there was room for both, but after this experience I began to wonder if hard copies really are on their way out. I felt saddened by the thought of homes of the future with no bookcases or dog-eared novels lying around on the coffee table to be picked up and browsed through at leisure.

Fast forward a couple of days and I was reading my Kindle in 40 degree heat when it suddenly just gave up and conked out. I had to put it down to rest in a dark, cool room and even then it took a couple of hours to revive.  Nothing like this would ever happen to a 'real' book, which is made of much sterner stuff. Hard copy books laugh in the face of extreme temperatures and electricity black outs. They can be read by candlelight, dropped, thrown around the room and jammed into boxes without even leaving a mark. Kindles on the other hand can't even handle something as simple  as being accidentally sat on (as I can attest to after losing my first Kindle in a tragic accident which still brings tears to my eyes).

The moral of the story is don't throw away your old books just yet. Ebooks are convenient and great in their way, but technology is fallible, and it always pays to have a back up plan. I look at my bookshelves with renewed respect and I'm going to make an effort to pick up a 'real' book every now and then just to remind myself of how good it feels to hold something solid and tangible that has proven it can stand the test of time.


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