Wednesday, 30 June 2010

A Hurrah for Book Publishing

The slow, tumoric spread of e-readers seems inevitable. The arguments against them have been well-rehearsed: they are nasty, selfish things that cannot be lent or signed or inscribed; once you have read an e-book, it vanishes into the calculator-like memory so that you cannot take it out again and handle it and remember it. Sensation is such an important part of reading - in fact, almost the most important part.

There are no distractions on a book. I find it difficult enough to sit down and read or write if there is a computer even in the same room - I must check my email every half an hour, just in case there is something important - so if there were an application which connected to the internet next to what I was reading, I can't see myself being able to concentrate long enough on my novel, when there was a possibility that a message from someone important might come in (although I never learn: there is always the aching sense of disappointment when one presses 'refresh' and in comes spam).

It is a lament, and a long one. I can only hope that children, who grow up still thankfully reading hardback picture books, will make the jump to their parents' collections of Puffin classics, as I made the jump to my father's 3 shillings and sixpence copy of E Nesbit's The Story of the Amulet, and his beautifully bound copies of The Coral Island, Moby Dick and A Tale of Two Cities.

But there is a corollary to the vanishing world of books: a greater appreciation of the object. Guerilla Books, owned and run by Jason Beacon, publishes hardback books which have the tenor and weight of the ages. They are not too heavy to hold, and have a solid, satisfyingly red cover with a simple design. I can only hope that many more books will follow the first (Beacon's own novel, The President, The Terrorist and The Torturer), and that other firms, too, will follow.

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