When I visited Berlin a few years ago I stood in the same square where the Nazis burned all the ‘unGerman’ books back in 1933 and was profoundly shocked and saddened by this intolerance, and deliberate destruction of education, creativity and knowledge. But books don’t die.
Helen Keller, one of the authors whose books were burned sent a letter to the Nazis:
“You can burn my books… but the ideas in them have seeped through a million channels and will continue to quicken other minds.”
Yet Ray Bradbury said we may as well burn our books because nobody reads them anymore. With the explosion of consumerism the humble book is the David next to the Goliath of the entertainment world; it pales into insignificance, lacking the visual bells and whistles of cinema, CGI, TV and gaming.
After all, why spend twenty hours reading when you can watch the story depicted on a big screen in the time it takes to devour a large popcorn? Because reading ignites your imagination, it takes time, patience and concentration – qualities lacking in today’s mad dash on the infernal treadmill to nowhere.
Even those who do read tend towards ebooks. It’s easy to see the benefits: accessibility, cheaper cost, lightweight for travelling and anonymity (nobody can see that trashy novel you’re reading). There’s even the argument of them being better for the environment than paper books. I guess that’s true but aren’t the decline in readers together with the popularity of ebooks the reason why book shops and libraries are dying a slow death? And you can’t read an ebook in the bath, on the beach, or get it signed for that matter.
That’s why I stubbornly stick to the old-fashioned geeky paper book. Am I a nostalgic old fart hankering for the ‘good old days’? Maybe. Or did I press the time machine button and pop up in the wrong generation? Quite possibly, but it’s the tactile feel and smell of the paper, of the indelible inky words that appeal to me. I love to browse the silent aisles of libraries and the musty second-hand book shops – to be transported into another world – to sink into a snot-green velvet op shop armchair with an antique hard back while the vintage record player crackles and croons. Flicking through book cover designs, battered spines and yellowy curled pages gives me great pleasure and peace. I treasure things that possess a story and history of their own. Plus they decorate my shelves beautifully.
So, what does the future hold for the humble book? Has reading really had its day or will book geeks enjoy a revival of being ‘on trend’?
Doesn’t David conquer Goliath with his little catapult and stone?