Hullo ma wee blog,
It's a bit daft really. I've got loads to do but done none of it today. I've spent the day mainly in the garden. Sure, I've justified it to myself by saying that I should make the most of the weather while its here and I have done some weeding and minor odds and sods around the garden but in reality most of the day has just been me goofing off, enjoying the sun and the fact that the grass - never a lawn - is looking good simply because its the shortest it's been for weeks, which hides a multitude of sins. In my delusional mode I call it 'organic' or 'natural' or even 'wildlife', but I'm fooling myself as its really none of those, even if it is teeming with well fed birds thanks to an intensive feeding program. I enjoy a garden but I'm not a gardener. So it's been me at the patio table, book and sunglasses to hand, the odd glass of dry white wine to help wash down some crusty bread, nicely juicy pears and a piece of lovely soft and slightly salty goats cheese barely drizzled with honey. My idea of a wee taste of the Languedoc in Scotland.
I've also caught up on a few blogs while the back of the house has been in shade this morning as I don't do squinting very well. I've read a bit as the sun has come round the house, forcing me to lay aside the laptop while I catch up on stuff I've been meaning to read but strangely for someone unemployed, who should have plenty of spare time on my hands, have not found time for.
While I've been doing that thoughts have been niggling away at me like unruly children, particularly about reading and books. A few bloggers I read have touched on the subject of bookish things over the internet lately, talking about the impact of the web on reading habits, the effect of on-line bookshops selling at knock down prices and the impact on 'real' bookshops and libraries. I've added the odd comment here or there, interested or curious, questioning or approving, all the time letting layers of content slowly build up a curmudgeonly niggling concern that, as with many other things, the world is changing and something that is important to me might be changing faster than I'm comfortable with and not in a direction I would choose.
It's particularly true of the technology around books, or more accurately reading, for what I see ahead is the potential disfigurement of reading as we know it. I wonder in twenty or thirty years if we will have books in any meaningful sense or will they be the domain of academia, dwindling numbers of bookshops, curiosity shops, reference libraries and museums or the musty collections of crusty old men like me? Will the availability of cheap books online actually reduce choice and the number of titles as these places promote the blockbuster and ignore the merely sublime. Will readers have lost contact with the reality of a book in the hand if books are simply story downloads to an i-pad reader or some other piece of technology which retail chains and publishing houses use as the opportunity to stop printing to reduce costs and maximise profits? How will we find those unexpected books if we cannot browse, can't pick them up and read the cover as we weigh the value of story and the weight of the authors effort if the book exists only online? With the increasing trend amongst kids towards talking books on i-pods for convenience, how will we create those characters to live in our minds and in our hearts if all we have is an actors interpretation being read to us? Will 'readers' question if the interpretation could be different or if the story is crippled by heavy handed abridging? Will books of the future simply be screenplays? Will we simply accept that Dracula or David Balfour or Jane Eyre have American voices attempting foreign accents?
Not that I can do anything about it of course. I can only be the curmudgeonly archetypal grumpy old man and note the change and comment.
When I was a child I loved libraries. Dad was a great reader and supporter of our local library and I too was bitten by the reading bug. As a teenager I was hit by asthma which meant I was often laid up. When that happened I read constantly, a stream of library books was supplied by Dad, not always to order but he would often pick up a wee gem for me. Like him, I became an avid and prodigious, if not altogether selective consumer of the written word. But I also became enthralled by books themselves; the hard-backed leather bound edition, the hard-backed paper sleeved novel, the cheapest paperback. I loved them all. I learned to love the feel of a book, the weight of it's mystery as it journeyed home with me in a bag strapped to my bike, or just hung from the handlebars, knees nudging the book as I pedalled; the smell of the pages as you cracked it open for the first time, old and musty perhaps if it had lain on the shelf for a long time or if it was elderly in itself; other scents, held by the pages, of the last reader, an old man who's fingers held the smell of pipe or cigarette tobacco or oil from machinery in their pores, a young woman who's delicate scent would perfume the pages for a short time. These things all spoke to me and evoked a feeling for the history of a book, almost as a living thing. I learned to love the heady smell that always seemed to be in a library. I loved the almost reverent hush of the place. The need to be quiet for once not an impossible task.
I've often enjoyed a book at bedtime. Does it feel the same being read on an I-Pad? I've often dropped a book from the bedside table or from the corner of a chair. I've dropped one getting up from my seat on a plane or a train. The books have survived them all. I wonder an I-Pad would.?
Oh, and I've never had a book run out of battery power although a few have run out of steam.....
I now have a room I use as a library in my house. I spend a lot of time there enjoying the atmosphere and relaxing with a well read book or attracted by the brightness of a cover to something that suits my mood. Could I have the same fun scrolling through the list of titles on my reader?
I really hope I never find out.
see you later. I'm browsing the Edinburgh Book festival brochure wondering if I can afford to attend any more events this year.