In praise of the printed word
I’ve been absolutely demolishing books lately. Not literally, of course. I mean, book-burning is kind of frowned upon, isn’t it? No, I’ve just been reading and reading and reading. I guess it is the one plus-side to a niggly, long commute. I suspect that a number of truly wonderful books for Christmas has helped too. As has finally addressing the many unread books already occupying the ever-decreasing shelf space. And, er…me buying some more.
Or maybe it is just a phase. I do always read. A lot. But the medium isn’t always the same. Sometimes I just have to read a newspaper every day. Other times I realise I get most of my news online (although it’s not the same), or find my brain rotting from reading the free newspapers handed out in London and decide enough is enough.
Other times I’m all over magazines and, for want of a better word, journals. There is some fantastic magazine design out there – Wire magazine, in particular, and the late, lamented Plan B. There’s also some genuinely great writing hiding away in your old periodicals. The New Yorker is always a wonderful, informative and luxurious read. The New York Review of Books is similarly brain-nourishing. But it’s not all about mags from the Big Apple – how about When Saturday Comes and World Soccer, for pretty much peerless football coverage? Or Private Eye, still great after all these years?
But then, after a while, I realise that as immediate and bite-sized and shiny as magazines are, it is a good book that I really crave. A book that demands to be read, to be devoured. The sort of book that leaves you with a sense of loss when it’s over, because you just can’t read it anymore, that the story of those characters (real or imagined) has now finished.
And in an age of iPhones, iPads and all that jazz, and working in a role that falls directly under the banner of, ahem, ‘new media’, it’s interesting to me that all of this ‘old media’ still brings so much joy. These print formats are still vital to me. There is nothing quite like the feel, touch, smell, experience of books, magazines and newspapers.
Don’t get me wrong, I love computers and would be lost without the internet. But nothing will replace flicking through a newspaper in a pub, or a magazine in the garden on a sunny day, or an old book, curled up indoors on a winter’s night. Long may these simple pleasures last.
Ah, kindred spirits. Bless you for your sentiments. We can hear the end of the age knocking at the door: within fifty years who knows what kind of rapid change the printed work will go through. Will it be extinct? Or will people like you constantly rise, clinging to the past, collecting old books, forming “tangible books” societies, and the like.
We hang on while we can, and continue buying books.
You are such a great writer, Steve. Every time I come to read your entries, I always find myself nodding or laughing or agreeing to your expressions and writing style. This has to be my favorite entry thus far and I’m going to copy/paste it onto my blog (with credit of course)! It’s exactly how I feel about books and this entry perfectly describes how I’ve felt… I just never knew how to portray it as clearly as you have 🙂 Thanks for your comment -Hope you’re having a great new year too! P.S. I purchased The Moveable Feast last month… it’s sitting on my night stand and I can’t wait to read it. Happy reading!!!
Wow, thank you both for the kind comments. I’m genuinely touched.
Paul – I think books still have a long shelf-life (pardon the pun). I still don’t think e-readers are anywhere near to replicating the experience of a good book. The portability, ease of use and tactile nature of books has yet to be bettered. And even if they are usurped, I can see a similar future for books as for vinyl records. While new technologies have taken over the mainstream, vinyl still survives.
Dee – Thank you for sharing my words with your readers, I really, really appreciate it. I’m back on Hemingway myself at the moment – The Old Man and The Sea. A wonderful book.