Give me books made of paper

Today is World Book Day. I am fortunate to have parents who brought me up in a house full of books, who instilled in me a love of reading and introduced me to the stories that shaped my life. A book is the closest thing I know to a Tardis; a simple object that can go unnoticed by so many, which contains entire worlds, transports the reader through time and space, enables them to experience previously unimagined lives and places.

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” (Jorge Luis Borges) 

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I fulfilled an ambition when I created a library in my home last year. This is where I write, surrounded by my books, cocooned and comforted by their presence.

“In a good book room you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.” (Mark Twain)

Libraries and book shops are my oasis in the stressful battlefields of town centres, places of peace and security away from the busy shoppers who jostle and intimidate. Buying a book that I have not yet read excites me as I contemplate the possibilities that it offers. A book is an undemanding friend, there when desired but willing to wait until the reader is ready to offer the time it deserves.

“We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel… an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.” (Ursula K. Le Guin)

All of my books are of the old fashioned kind; I do not own an eReader. When the Kindle started to gain in popularity a few of the ladies in my book group purchased one; it just didn’t appeal to me.

I heard tales of them inexplicably freezing on a page, never to come back to life; or frying in the sun whilst on holiday. I even read of one reader whose electronic copy of a book vanished overnight when a dispute over a seller’s right to provide the work ended with all those sold being remotely removed from the devices that had received the download. I had never envisaged these problems; my concern had been how I could lend this type of book to a friend.

I like physical books. I like to hold them, carry them around, leave them on tables inviting me to dip in. I feel an affinity with books that I cannot explain but is akin to love. When I sit in my library at home I feel at peace.

“Picking five favourite books is like picking the five body parts you’d most like not to lose.” (Neil Gaiman)

There are times, however, when I question my decision not to purchase an electronic device. These times are increasing in regularity as I get to know, on line, authors who have poured their heart and soul into a work of fiction that will not be physically printed. I could download the fruits of their labours at very little cost, sometimes even for free.

So why do I not just go out and buy myself an eReader, even if I only use it for works that are not available in any other way?

Just before Christmas I offered to be a beta reader for an aspiring author that I knew only via Twitter. His novel was described as ‘ideal for anyone who enjoys Star Wars, Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones!.’  This sounded like good reading for the Christmas period, and I enjoy reviewing books so looked forward to providing feedback. I received my download and sat myself down, ready and willing to immerse myself in his world. I discovered that my reading habits do not suit the electronic medium.

The story was compelling, full of characters that I wished to get to know. My problem was that, as I progressed, I could not see how far I had read, how far I still had to go. I could not nurse the book lovingly as I paused to consider the plot, or idly flick through the pages as I answered a query when disturbed. I realised that this was how I enjoyed reading, that I engaged with the physical form of my reading matter. Sure, I could check electronic numbers, bookmark, even make notes as I went along, but it wasn’t the same. Reading on a screen was computer time, not my means of escape to another world.

I failed as a beta reader, which is a useful lesson for me to learn. It is unfortunate that, in acquiring this knowledge, I let the writer down. I know that he found other beta readers, but I felt bad for making an offer that I could not fulfil.

Yesterday evening I was excited to read that he has completed his work and today, World Book Day, he becomes a published author. You can buy his book here Salvation eBook: AMC: Kindle Store, go check it out. I hope that many people choose to download his book and enjoy what he has created.

He is not the first author that I have taken an interest in only to find that I cannot read the results of their labours in the form of my choosing. One did offer paperback copies to order but at a price that I was unwilling to pay, and therin lies the rub. Physical books cost so much more to produce and distribute. They require a significant volume of sales if they are to be economically viable.

If ebooks encourage others to read more then, in my view, they are a good thing. I can see the attraction of being able to carry a library of books around in such a small device, particularly when travelling. I realise that I tested my ability to read a book on a screen using a computer, albeit a portable one that fits in my handbag, rather than a dedicated reader. Nevertheless, for me, I desire a book made of paper.


On World Book Day let us enjoy and celebrate books, in whatever form we choose to read them. I will be finding time for Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Year of the Flood’. What will you be reading?

“I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.” (J.K. Rowling) 


Poem by Bo Burnham 


Creating my perfect room

I have decided to change one of the rooms in my house. I am going to get a carpenter to build two wall to wall, floor to ceiling sets of bookshelves. I will have the bureau that I had custom built to my design years ago against one wall and the Yamaha upright piano that we bought last year against the other wall. I will have two comfy armchairs with a matching footstool in the middle, each with a reading light behind. This will be my room; books, music and writing in one perfect place.

I have never had enough shelf space for all of my books. Over the years I have had to cull my collection periodically  and I am now regretting sending some of those treasures to the charity shop. I don’t miss the trash novels or the autobiographies that I once thought I might find interesting but never did. However, I so regret giving away some of the children’s books that my three had grown too old for.

I mean, I had the original Famous Five series where the girls go off to make the tea. It’s not that I want my boys to think that this is what girls are for, but I object to anyone messing with an author’s work. If you don’t like the way a book is written then fine, don’t read that author, don’t recommend it, but don’t change it! I loved Enid Blyton as a child and so did my daughter. She makes the tea for no one but herself.

And what possessed me to give away ‘The Gruffalo’ and ‘Owl Babies’? Those books are fabulous. I guess we just didn’t have enough space to store all of the boxes we would have needed had we held on to every book that I endlessly read to my growing kids. The bookshelves in their rooms have always been overstuffed; sometimes we just had to clear them out and let go.

Not any more though. I am going to have so much storage space for books that I will have to go on a buying spree just to fill up those shelves; what a joyful prospect! I am making lists, reading reviews, noting down recommendations from friends. I am planning how I will organise the books that we will have; how I will separate fiction and non fiction, children’s and adult’s.

My room will be my haven; my escape from reality. It has a walk through to our family room and my daughter and I played with the idea of filling this in with double sided bookshelves and a ‘secret’ opening. What fun that would be. I can only guess at how much a carpenter would charge for such a novelty, but I suspect he may enjoy the commission. It would, however, rob the internal room of natural light. We will leave the walk through as it is; I do not wish to cut myself off from my family entirely.

The ordinary bookshelves that are currently in this room have been claimed by my elder son for his bedroom. The shelves he currently has will move to his sister’s room. Everyone will end up with more storage space for their precious reading material. I am so happy that my children share my love of books, particularly when they enjoy one that I have recommended and we can discuss what we liked and why. However much I exasperate these developing young adults with my inability to grasp and appreciate their emerging ideologies and reasoning, we can share the pleasure to be found in the fictional worlds and characters that we discover between the pages of our many good books.

As with any home project that I decide to go ahead with, I am now impatient for work to begin. I will then be even more impatient for it to be completed. When it is done and I am organising my collection for display, which books would you recommend for inclusion?