Pick up a book and smell it!

17 Oct

There is something about the smell of a new book. In fact there is something about the smell of an old book too. It conjures up memories from childhood of old bookshops, local bookshops and the excitement of picking up a new paperback off the shelf. You would not be strange for relating certain smells to certain reads either, because I have done that too. (Maybe it is just me then.)

The publication of the story concerning the British Library and the new software which directs browsers to Amazon, present in a lot of national newspapers today has stirred something within me. Although, I am not quite sure what yet. Anger? Disappointment? Excitement? Well, yes perhaps. But the fact that a lot of local bookshops have dwindled away was something I had not really noticed until this story cropped up. How bad is that?

I remember going into local bookshops on the corner of my local high street as a child but with the advent of Waterstones and Blackwell bookstore’s cropping up I had hardly noticed that mum had stopped taking me to visit the local store down the road. Truth be told, the national bookshops had a lot more to offer, wide variety of choice, books on next day order, a wealth of staff to offer advice (although whether they’re helpful or not is a separate issue) and of course convenience. However, the simple pleasures such as polite conversation,
customer service exceeding your expectations, a treasure trove of specialist knowledge and of course the unforgettable smell of those books were always and still are absent from these ‘national’ stores.

I would be fibbing if I said I had never purchased a book off of Amazon before, because of course I have, but it is not really this that concerns me. The British Library stands for those books which are British and it should ultimately be loyal to this and support British bookstores, if it is going to support any at all. To me it then becomes significant as to whether these are local or national bookstores. At a time when localised businesses are affected by the recession and budget cuts would it not make more sense to endorse these bookshops and encourage browsers to visit these? That is, if they even exist anymore.

This whole story appears to me to be a case of profit margins for the British Library.

In spite of this, what is imperative here is that the British Library are ultimately supporting a website business (Amazon) which is more or less leading the physical object of the book we all know and love to extinction through the implementation of the ‘E-book’. After all, U.S Amazon subscribers are already purchasing more ‘E-books’ than they are paperbacks and hardbacks!

What will the British Library do when they are no longer needed? When all books are converted to ‘E-books’ and are able to be downloaded by the simple click of a button? It is then them that shall be brought into extinction.

My University are already endorsing ‘E-books’. If I search for a book on my computer through the University system in order to find its location in the library I am instead directed to an online ‘E-book’ that I can read, apparently at my leisure on my PC or laptop. But, do I really want to be sat at a computer or laptop staring incessantly at a screen? Not really. I don’t fancy wearing glasses for the rest of my life!

One of my university lecturers (who I will not name) is a writer himself and has had his own literature published. He categorically refuses to use this ‘E-book’ system for our use (and no this is not just so he can extend his own profit margins so that we buy his actual book) and told us last week how our own library discards of books that are no longer taken out by students by putting them in the huge waste bins that adorn our campus. This is after they have been uploaded onto the ‘E-book’ system of course. I do not then blame my tutor for rooting through the bins and taking these unfortunate and innocent books home. (This is what he told us he did!) What a waste!

There is no simple pleasure akin to holding a printed book in your hands and reading it. You can pick it up where you left off, carry it around, show it off, smell it if you so wish. :-p and whilst you can carry around an E-Reader with hundreds of ‘E-books’ on it will never be the same as the printed edition of the book.

It is plain to see that it is not just the Independent bookshops that are missing out; it is collectively me and you that are.

Next time you pick up a book, think of the work that has gone into it, make the most of it…and for your own sake SMELL it!!! 😉

N

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2 Responses to “Pick up a book and smell it!”

  1. E-bike November 12, 2011 at 10:05 PM #

    The urge to gamble is so universal and its practice so pleasurable, that I assume it must be evil. – Heywood Broun

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