Monday 6 May 2013

Ten things you can’t do with a Kindle – Katherine Roberts

My interview with history boy Ian Mortimer last month suggests that the physical book is still the preferred format for historians, despite the rise of ebooks in other genres. But even if reading them goes out of fashion, physical books can still be used for many other things. For a bit of bank holiday fun, here's my top ten list of things you can’t do with an e-reader:

1. Decorate your living room. Well, I suppose you could… but a row of e-readers sitting on the shelf doesn’t have quite the same potential for colour co-ordination when you change your curtains.

2. Open a secondhand bookshop and spend happy hours browsing the shelves for out-of-print gems. Ebooks never go out of print - where's the fun in that?

3. Press flowers. You need a hefty tome for this, and I find historical non-fiction works very well. Here is “Wonders of the Past” complete with pressed primroses from my lawn (I haven't cut the grass lately...!)

Pressed flowers

4. Book crossing. At least, not unless people start a craze for leaving Kindles in cafes with whole libraries and their amazon credit details loaded...

5. Sign a copy. Yes, I know there’s such a thing as digital signing but it’s really not the same as meeting your readers and personally defacing their book, is it?

6. Smell it. Ah, that musty “old book” smell! I have a friend who won’t buy a book unless he’s had a good sniff first, rather like people who won’t buy flowers unless they are scented – though no doubt it won’t be too long before e-readers come with a synthetic range of smells.

7. Eat it. If you’re a bug, obviously – the larvae of the death watch beetle and common furniture beetle can feed on books. Although one of my school friends used to tear off the corners of pages and chew them when she got bored in lessons. (Perhaps I’ve just got weird friends?)

Mmmm... tasty book!

8. Burn it. Book bonfires can be used for political or religious oppression. Hitler burned books that challenged the Nazi regime. Others have burned Korans and Bibles and other holy books. Burning Kindles might be top of some people’s lists, but it wouldn't really have the same effect and I doubt they would smell as nice as 6.

9. Rest your feet on it. Being a bit of a short-ass, two “Wonders of the Past” volumes are just right to prop up my feet when my chair is raised to the right height for my keyboard.

10. Drop it in the bath. This is my copy of Philip Pullman’s “Amber Spyglass” after being dropped into hot foamy water while I was reading it in the bath. I dried it out on a radiator and finished the story, then put it on my bookshelf (in the orange section) where it is currently decorating my study… see 1.

Could you dry out a Kindle this way...?

So what do you do with your paper books, besides read them?

Katherine Roberts writes fantasy and historical fantasy for young readers.

Her latest series the Pendragon Legacy about King Arthur’s daughter is published by Templar as beautiful, chunky hardcovers that might be quite useful for pressing flowers and decorating bookshelves after you have read them (you can get them as paperbacks and ebooks, too).

And just to prove I'm not biased, here is a balancing post my unicorn wrote over on his blog: Ten things you CAN do with a Kindle (that you can't do with a paper book).


Theresa Breslin said...

Well said Katherine! One of the most joyous experiences of life is to share a picture book with a young child. A full sensory occasion, full of tactile and visual bonding moments. I can't see that being replaced by a digital download.

Sally Zigmond said...

Great post, Katherine. I spend many a happy moment gazing at my book-shelves; not just because books look good on a shelf - although they do - but because every book I own brings back a memory (and strong emotion) of a time and place of what I was doing when I first read it and where I bought it.

And how does the quick and easy downloading of an e-book compare with the romance of entering an unfamiliar book shop, especially one stuffed full of second-hand volumes?

I love buying books with hand-written dedications, postcards, letters and snapshots used as book-marks and forgotten plus dried flowers that scatter into your lap. I never throw those out.

I have a kindle and find it useful when on holiday or travelling but, more and more, I am returning to book-buying. I miss the feel, touch, smell and the art-work of a real paper and glue book.

maya said...

Love The Amber Spyglass ;)

Annis said...

(7) reminds me of scenes from David Benioff's "City of Thieves", set during the Siege of Leningrad. A special treat for the starving citizens is library candy. What is library candy? It was book binding glue (made from animal products) that had been boiled down and shaped into a bar of tasteless protein, wrapped in book paper.

This really happened- as well as the glue from book bindings, tooth powder, Vaseline, glycerine, cologne, library paste, and wallpaper paste were also recycled as food sources.

Katherine Roberts said...

Oh - library candy! Thank you Annis, I didn't know about that (and I don't imagine chewing on the innards of an e-reader would have quite the same taste...)

Michele said...

I used to eat paper as a child - but it was notepad paper - I'd never have dreamt of defacing books in such a manner!!

Susan Price said...

I used to eat the corners of books too! - So there's another weird friend you have, Kath, if eating books is weird.
I am intrigued by the idea of colour coordinating books... My books are a disorderly lot... and they are forever migrating about the house. I suspect there are currents and eddies.

adele said...

Good on you! I am a Kindle refusenik and would only get one when my eyes got too bad to read can't lend a book, send one in a packet to a friend of yours, and you can't retrieve all the memories that are revived when you take favourites off the shelf!

Ruan Peat said...

Thank you for this timely reminder of why my hall, stairs and landing are lined with paper backs and often duplicate copies! don't ask how many copies of lord of the rings I have but each one is for a reason! my only comment about the list is 10, my poor kindle dried out nicely after I fell asleep in the bath with it. and I do try very hard not to eat pages now I all growed up! I do try to stop other things eating my books! but one you missed was a stack to put a cat bed on! I have 3 dog beds on my landing at different heights depending on the book stacks underneath them, occasionally I am woken when a book-alanche hits my door with cat on top trying to look innocent!

Katherine Roberts said...

Ah, a cat bed! My cat likes to sit on books too, but only when I am reading them. She also likes to sit on my Kindle, so I think it's more attention seeking than comfort in her case.

I do love my Kindle, but for different reasons. It's much better for travelling, and I'd never pack a book in my suitcase now when I can have my whole e-library with me and the ability to buy a book I actually want to read at the airport. I also like it for non-fiction with its search mode. And when my eyes get tired, I can have it read to me... I'm sure there are 10 things you can do with a Kindle that you can't do with a paper book, they're just different things.

Carrie said...

This post makes me very happy. I have an ereader. They have their advantages, I suppose. But there are so much that technology cannot recreate--the tactile, emotional connection that only a physical book can bring!