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?

10 thoughts on “Book vs Story

  1. No Pamela! Don’t feel guilty! I love my kindle app on both my phone and mini ipad. As you say, it’s so quick and easy, want a book? Download it in seconds. I do have to draw the line at no books in the house, my shelves are loaded as well, and I think it’s so nice sometimes to go back to a paperback of a book you love. Dont trust anyone who has no books in their house!

    • Quite right, Julie! Obviously my culling will never really reduce the number of books we own – I just ordered half a dozen from Pulp Fiction this very day! But it means the turn over is quicker than it used to be.

  2. I think it’s the same argument as digital vs vinyl when it comes to music… when digital music became available, I switched to digital – there are some people who claim the experience isn’t the same, but I just want to listen to music in the easiest format – so I use digital…

    I’m the same with books – I’m almost exclusively digital now… but it also helps that I live in a tiny tiny flat – we just don’t have room for books – we only have 1 bookcase… that’s all we can fit – so e-readers are the only way I can buy/read new books…

    But in the end, it’s all the same – there are no rules – books or digital, it’s everyone’s personal choice, and no one is right, and no one is wrong! 🙂

  3. It’s fascinating how each of us navigates the issue of dead tree -v- bytes. I have Kindle on my Android Nexus pad, and love its convenience. If you can’t follow Oscar Wilde’s advice (‘I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.’), then being able to access a book on your phone or pad is essential.

    But — and I know this is a terrible confession — I just can’t see e-books as entirely real. If I love a book, I just must own it, I need the paper, I need it on my bookshelf. If it’s something that I know I’ll only read once, digital is fine. I don’t have enough shelf space for everything I read. But the wonderful, lasting things? Sorry, trees.

    On a related note, I do wonder how the Young People of Today manage to woo in the digital age. When I was a lass about town, an essential element of assessing a potential beau (and indeed, of foreplay) was to not-so-surreptitiously assess the bookshelves and the milk crates of LPs. Now, the words and the music are hidden, and that is like making you wear a blindfold, romantically speaking. I hope it doesn’t lead to too many failed relationships.

    • I do tend to order ‘real’ books by my favourite authors – but this is often because they don’t bring the ebook out simultaneously. I have some books which are beautiful – works of art in themselves. And I have others which are full of memories. That’s one thing about ebooks; they may not be as evocative in the future when we scroll through our archived list as when we take down an old book from the shelf and find a postcard, or a bus ticket from Prague, or a coffee stain which recalls that particular meal when we first realised how wonderful our best beloved is. But then, we’ll probably have a selfie to remember it by anyway!

  4. To me, I shouldn’t even be thinking about the format- if it’s a great read I forget where I am and I’m immersed in the story. I can equally enjoy a movie on TV as at the cinema.

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