Re-KINDLEd Literature

With Kindles and iPads keen on turning over a more shiny, silicon leaf, BEN DALTON argues that we should try and rekindle our old, papery flame.

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Amicable parchment-fetishists: come one, come all! This is a message to everyone whose hands are partial to the inky knobble of the printed page; whose eyes hold dear the dusty, cobwebbed panoramic of library shelves; and whose noses are lusty for the vintage, malt scent that is whiffed in the crack of an olde tome. It is now safe to emerge from the shadows cast by the towering, aggressive presence of Kindles and iPads, and to flee from the digital beep of the cyber library into more papery paddocks. It is time we addressed the matter of the  hand-held digital reading apparatuses.

In an age that favours the luminescent, LED-boasting screens of digital books, we appear to have forgotten the joys and desires of the paperback in all its glorious physicality. Nowadays, books are often left rejected and redundant as we swarm and coo over the younger, more attractive, new models. The Kindle quite clearly represents the ‘Miss-New-Boobs’ of the literary world, and this just isn’t right.

You see, books have always been there for us: the crusty recipe book on Grandma’s shelf, the coffee-stained Jeffrey Archer novel on Dad’s bedside table, and the thumbed copy of Mum’s toilet-side Gillian McKeith, to name but a few. Nuzzle a nostril deep within the spine of any JK Rowling hardback, breathing in its earthy musk, and I defy you not to find yourself immediately transported back to hours of past-your-bedtime, duvet-decked page turning. The point is: books are so much more than stories and words; they hold our most precious memories within their pages.

Reading a book on a Kindle will never be able to rival the delicious experience of staying up late and frantically turning the pages of your favourite novel. You won’t be able to look at an iPad in 10 years time and remember the exact smell of your Grandmother’s home, where you spent your summer engrossed in a new book, or look fondly back at the dog-eared pages of a book that was passed down from your Mother onto you.

The enemy

Rallying the enemy troops is a private school in Crowthorne. Previously endowed with a library capable of satisfying the bookish appetite of a veritable book-anaconda, let alone your run-of-the-mill bookworm, a new headmaster has recently announced plans to get rid of over half of the book supplies. In this operation of near military ruthlessness, the headmaster will be introducing a polished platoon of iPads and Kindles with access to thousands of eBooks.

This is tragic. I can almost hear Jane Austen falling with an ungainly thud from the shelf, her paper page underskirt ruffled and torn, before she is sucked up through a thin electronic wire and flung, without care, into a microchip. As the metallic clash of a prison door clangs shut behind her, she now exists purely within the four straight lines of the Kindle screen, reduced and limited to a cold, organised vat of pixels.

The figurative clock has struck its figurative midnight, pronouncing that it is high-time to reassess the relationship between homosapien and book.

This isn’t a cry against modernisation, but rather against the notion that the future doesn’t all have to be metal, shiny, and light-up. Even children who at some point will inevitably grow up in a world of teleportation, cryogenics, and holidays to Saturn, should still be allowed memories of Grandma reading to them from a hefty volume with large illustrations in front of the fire, or be able to look back lovingly at the tea stain on page 45, or the blurb that the dog chewed off.

Kindles and iPads are part of a money-making scheme that aim to make profit every time a book is read, rather than every time a book is purchased. They display every book in the same format, severely limiting the reader’s enjoyment of the words, and they might even endanger the existence of the communal reading place that is the library. As such, I urge you not to delve into the dangerous world of the electronic book, but rather to keep buying new books and re-reading your old favourites. You won’t regret it.