No one likes to feel intimidated. And sometimes it can happen in the most unlikely places. Today, I had to walk out of a bookshop without buying a book. I did have a very nice sandwich and a drink though.
Books have never held any fear for me. I knew my childhood stories by heart before I could read. And, once I’d learned, my favourite day was library day. I read my way merrily through childhood, through adolescence and into adult-hood. Books were my friends.
When the Kindle came along I thought it was my ticket to paradise. Hundreds of books, adjustable type, reading in the dark? What bliss! The Oasis looks really nice, with its ergonomic design and page-turning buttons. I’m saving my pennies.
Lately, though, I’ve been missing real books. Books with pages and the smell of fresh, black type. Books with covers. Books with spines. Tactile books. I’ve been missing browsing in bookshops and coming home with something I start to read on the bus. My bookshelves are mostly empty and I miss their welcome when I come home. I miss running my fingers along the spines and remembering or wondering what treasures they shelter. I miss books.
I was in town today and decided to rectify the situation by buying a book (or maybe two?) I honestly thought it’d be easy. I even thought I might enjoy it. So I went to the bookshop and started browsing. And I was intimidated by the books.
Some of them looked terribly long. Some of them looked heavy, in weight if not in subject. Others had type that might be hard to read. And what if I spent £7.99 and didn’t like it? More to the point, what if I spent £7.99 and couldn’t read it? I have never, ever, in all my life met a book I couldn’t read. I’ve met books I didn’t want to read. I’ve been forced to read books I would cheerfully have consigned to the bin. I’ve stopped reading under the 50 Page Rule. I have never, ever, met a book I couldn’t read. But, as I wandered through the store, feeling increasingly panicked, I realised that I may no longer be able to read a real book.
Is this how people who don’t read feel when faced with a shelf full of titles? I’d like to … I could … Oh, but I probably can’t. So I’ll just not try and then I won’t have failed. Come and we’ll buy a DVD instead? Well, I didn’t buy a DVD. I went to the charity shop next door and bought a paperback for £2. I started reading it on the bus home. It smells musty and feels soft in my hands. And my eyesight does appear to be good enough to cope without back-lighting.
The Kindle is lovely. No matter how many pages a book contains or how many books in the Kindle, it feels the same in my hand. If I’m tired, or the light is bad, I can change the text and the illumination. It helpfully tells me how far into the book I have gone and how much longer it will take me to finish it. It’s easy to read on the Kindle. Maybe it’s too easy.