Book vs Story

I used to think I was a bibliophile.

After all, there are 27 bookcases in our house, and they’re all overflowing. Proof positive. End of argument.

Then Kindle.

I tried the actual Kindle reader, but it was the wrong shape and size for my hands, and I could never forget that I was holding an object instead of a book. I couldn’t get lost in the story.

But I got the Kindle app for my phone, and the iBook app, and a couple of others.

My phone fits my hand. It goes everywhere with me, so there’s no extra weight or remembering to do. And because it’s so easy to hold and to turn the page, I am never jolted out of the story in the way I was with the e-reader. So I read. And read…

A few months on, I bought one of Connie Willis’s books (Blackout). It’s a fabulously researched time travel story set in the London Blitz, and I enjoyed it immensely. It’s a big book, especially as a trade paperback, which is all that was available in Australia. To my surprise, I found that I was actively resenting the book: its size, its weight, its ungainliness, the way I had to remember to take it with me… and I realised that I was not, in fact, a bibliophile. I was a, um, … narratophile?

That is, I like stories. I am addicted to stories. And I don’t care how they come. Books, magazines, tv shows, movies, radio dramas, facebook anecdotes, twitter novels… don’t care. Just want the story.

And what I love about reading on my phone is that the next fix is just a couple of button clicks away. Finish reading the second book in a series on the train? Go buy the third book immediately and start reading before you get to the next station.

Bliss. Or, possibly, greed.

Now, when I cull my library, my criterion for keeping a book is not whether I liked it or not, it’s whether I can get it as an ebook. Unless it’s a book I reread regularly, or need for some other reason (like teaching), if it’s available as electrons I cull it.

It makes me feel vaguely guilty. On the other hand, those books go out to others who will love them too, and find a new life on other shelves.

I don’t have to feel guilty. Do I?