Tag Archives: Kindle

The death of real books/the end of e-books?

The announcement of the death of real books was premature it seems. Like the paperless office it is unlikely to come about any time soon. Sales figures reveal that we like our physical books. Really like them. Like to hold them and to read them, like to own and borrow them and like to enjoy them as aesthetic objects. And the same statistics reveal that we buy lots of e-books, although not quite so many Kindles as we did. So who is winning the war?

Real book vs e-books

Let’s start by rejecting the idea of a war. The book forms, electronic and printed, are not in opposition, not in conflict. Guess what, it’s not either/or, not a duality in opposition, but and/both. If you read books on a screen it doesn’t mean you don’t read printed books. And vice versa.

When Kindles and other similar e-readers were introduced their sales took off, and the sales of e-books rocketed with them. But pretty quickly people took up positions on the formats. Bloodless nerds! That was what a well-known writer called Kindle-users at a literary festival in 2011. The audience responded with sustained applause. In those days it seemed that the superior position was to reject the new technology. Oh, except for people on holiday or in hospital.

Today you see people using e-readers in trains and on London Transport. A student of mine from the Middle East once remarked that reading on public transport was the most striking feature of London. I have a theory that Londoners are among the most dedicated readers in Britain. They bring e-readers out at reading groups, and find books for you at the drop of a mention if they can lay their hands on their device.

Kindle purchases have decreased. Instead, people are reading more on mobile phones and tablets. Even I have a downloaded book on my ipad. It was offered free with a subscription and I accepted on condition I was instructed how to download and access it. It was simple. I will read it.

E-Book sales are falling

Earlier this year The Bookseller reported that e-book sales were falling for a second year and sales of printed books were rising. Hoorah for printed books. Let’s look a little closer at the figures.

The decline in e-books was said to be about 4%. And the rise in printed books about 7%. But hang on a moment, because there is a more nuanced story.

  1. The e-book figures are for books published by publishers, and do not include self-published books. It may be that sales of e-books have not fallen at all, they are just not counting one segment of the market.
  2. Two types of real books have been increasing in recent years: colouring books for adults and children’s books.
  3. In the UK, austerity has closed many libraries. Buying books may represent an alternative to borrowing books. I don’t know of any research to support this possibility, but library borrowing has reduced. SHAME on the library closers.
  4. Books as aesthetic objects are increasingly being appreciated, especially children’s books, but also in the adult market. Think about those beautiful Persephone Books, or the covers that enhance some recent publications. I wrote about some excellent covers recently: read more here.

People are spending more on books. This is a key piece of information. Books are not dying. And it is premature to announce that readers’ enchantment with e-books is over.

Room for both e-books and printed books?

via visual hunt

Isn’t there room on your shelves for both e-books and printed books (as it were)? Isn’t there room for both in the market place? And in libraries? And in bookshops?

Many of us will hold on to our hard copies of books, even books we are unlikely to reread. For many readers it is the book itself, as object, that we want to own; want to endlessly repeat the experience of handling the book, turning the pages, smelling the pages, hearing the particular noise of turning the page. Here is the author, David Nicholls speaking at the London Book Fair in April 2015.

My love of the book as object, and by extension the public library and bookshop, has to do with the way stories are experienced, remembered, shared and passed on. No one has yet found a way to unwrap digital data, to turn it into something you cherish, or to give online browsing the same pleasure, satisfaction and sense of discovery as walking around a bookshop. [David Nicholls in 2015 speech to London Book Fair, Guardian April 2015. Speech available on You Tube.]

He has resolved the non-existent opposition by buying both real and e-versions of books.

What we should care about

Harold Knight, The Green Book

We should care that

And we should be pleased that there are excellent independent publishers about. And that there are still so many excellent books being written, despite all of the above.

Over to you

Do you have any views on e-books, real books, and the future of books? Do you use a Kindle? What are the advantages, disadvantages, pleasures, frustrations …?

To subscribe and receive email notifications of future posts on Bookword please enter your email address in the box.

8 Comments

Filed under Books, Libraries

Decluttering my books

I moved house two years ago. Preparations for the move, my first in 29 years, led me to write this post about decluttering my books. Here are some updates: I had lots of shelving installed in my new house; the house has no cellar; I bought a car and acquired a cat; I now belong to two reading groups and buy more books as a result; I bought and reviewed A Passage to India in the older women in fiction series; my criteria for chucking out books has narrowed; I still do not own a Kindle. I am considering releasing books into the wild again.

Here’s the original post (slightly edited)

Moving house with books

217 vanBooks and declutter; I am not sure whether those two words can belong in the same sentence. But I am hearing other people combine them because I am moving. Moving house that is. Moving house means moving everything inside the house that isn’t nailed to the floor: my furniture, my clothes, the lamps, the food in my fridge and my books. As soon as I told them I was moving, kind friends began asking how I am getting on with decluttering and something they call ‘sorting out my books’. I consider my response: I’m not – getting on with it, that is; books aren’t clutter; my books don’t need sorting. In that pause my friends think I am considering the size of this task. Sometimes they add – ‘books are so dusty’ or ‘aren’t books heavy’. Both statements are true but obvious, like saying milk goes off or someone’s hidden my Allen keys.

Precious about books?

Now I am not being precious about books. I write in them, their corners get manked because I carry them in my rucksack, I stick post-it notes and those lovely plastic coloured page markers in them, give them away, and even throw them away sometimes. I just assume I’m going to have books around me, like mugs, spiders and socks with holes in the toes.

My Inner Critic pops up to remind me that I have not solved the problem of where I am going to keep my books in my new house. I anticipate hours of moving books around, organising shelves, changing my mind, sitting and reading a rediscovered volume, or searching for the companion to (say) Gilead by Marilynne Robinson: ie Housekeeping and wondering if I can buy the recently released paperback version of her essays When I was a child I read books yet. Or wondering why I have three German-English-Deutsch dictionaries. I do, I do. Oh bliss!

Into the cellar

Back to disposing of books. In preparation for my move I have been forced to look in my cellar, where I find that there are boxes of books (and it has to be admitted other things, such as a roof rack, paint tins, suitcases of different sizes, cat basket, empty jam jars, a box of tile spacers and other potentially useful stuff). I have neither cat nor car, by the way. The thing about the boxes of books (but not those other things) is that they have been there since I moved in 29 years ago. I try to apply a general principle that if I have not looked at them in 29 years I am unlikely to want to look at them in the next 29, so I can move them out and on. But of course this breaks down as soon as I come across War and Peace in two volumes, or Julian Barnes’ early works, or The Tin Drum. Rather than a decluttering fest I have a delightful and time-consuming reunion with many of my books.

35bkbox

Keeping book buying under control

In the past I have tried throwing out a book every time I buy a new one. I have cut down hugely on book buying in the last few years by the simple expedient of using several libraries. But I do still buy books. For example, this week I had to get EM Forster’s A Passage to India. I went to the shelf where I keep his novels and I was rather horrified to find it was not there. I wanted to check the name of the older woman who hears the sound in the Malabar Caves – it’s Mrs Moore. Not having a copy made me want to read it. And I seem to have given myself another problem: what should I throw out to make way for this new book?

Here are some of my criteria for ejection. I usually need at least six of these to apply before I dispose of a book:

  • I’m unlikely to read it again.
  • It was not especially remarkable in the first place.
  • It’s a duplicate because I forgot I already had a copy.
  • It’s on a topic I am unlikely to read about in the future (eg most of my university history books).
  • It was given to me by someone I hate.
  • No-one wants this book because it’s an out of date text book.

Disposal

And what do I do with them if the decision is OUT? Usually I take them to the local charity shop. Sometimes I give them away. Occasionally I put a book that no one will ever want in the recycling bag.

For a couple of years I passed on books through something called BookCrossing. You register the book on the website and if the person who finds it reports its location you can track its journey. One book I left in Gordon Square ended up in New York. Who knows where it has gone now. But not enough people reported finding them to hold my interest (21 books caught out of 143 released), so I stopped doing it. I still like the idea of people finding books on buses, in cafes, in cinema foyers.

217 Bookcr logoAre you one of those people who can’t throw any books away? Or do you have a system for keeping your collection under control? Go on, say it, you have a Kindle. But a Kindle would not help me in the onerous task of moving house, would it?

Related posts

I agree with this article. I do not intend to move for another 30 years and never intend to ‘declutter’ my books again. Decluttering is the enemy of human kind by Emma Brockes in the Guardian, critical of the moral judgements the decluttering movement hands out.

Here’s another reader’s approach: How to weed your bookshelves by Jessica Pryde on BookRiot blog in November 2015

To receive emails about future posts please subscribe by entering your email address in the box.

 

10 Comments

Filed under Books, Reading, Reviews

How do you organise your books?

The problem of organising your books is owning them. If you love books you own them – lots of them. You are given them, lent them, buy them and you read them, and then put them – where? On a shelf, on a table, in a pile? I you buy books you are confronted with the persistent problem of how to organise your collection of books. Even the most evangelical of kindlers surely has some books to organise. You would have to be completely ruthless to have no books. Kindles may be the answer to the problem in the future, but I am still not a convert to Kindle138 Oblique bookshelf

The rule

It’s the rule, in organising books. There is never enough shelf space, however many books or shelves you own.

If you have ever cohabited with another reader, the rule means you have had to take urgent action and someone must dispose of their copies of Women in Love, To Kill a Mocking Bird and The Collected Works of William Shakespeare. It can be a fraught time as you argue over the emotional value of your GCSE copy of Julius Caesar, or don’t want to part with the precise copy in which you encountered Atticus Finch. And remember, some people can’t bear to part with books under any circumstances. That’s another topic – recycling books.

When you move house books get put in boxes, and often left in boxes for weeks, months, even years. A few years ago I came across several boxes of books in my cellar. I had put them there there when I moved in 30 years before. I figured that if I hadn’t missed those books in 30 years I could send them on their way now. Anyway, see the rule. Not all of them have been recycled of course. Some of them snuck onto the shelves (see method 2 below).

The problems

Volume (note sneaky pun) of books.

Finding a specific book again.

Library in Radstadt, book tower. Herzi Pinki via WikiCommons

Library in Radstadt, book tower. Herzi Pinki via WikiCommons

What to do with your tbr (to be read) pile: a stack? a dedicated shelf? a list?

Where to keep those embarrassing self help books, Lou asked me when I first posted about this topic. I think she suggested at the back of the wardrobe.

And Sue added her comments about her problem.

Books have been colonising my living space for the past ??? (well, over 60) years. In piles by the bed, under the bed, by any chair–in fact, anywhere there happens to be a clear surface. Three years ago I had a fantastic floor to ceiling bookcase built along my narrow hallway. But it’s now fully occupied, with a very eclectic selection.
Every few years I am determined to recycle my books to Oxfam or wherever I have the strength to carry them. Then I have a new interest, and it triggers something from a book I have read–I look on the shelves and in the piles–and realise it has been ‘de-cluttered’.
End result? Amazon have made a fortune out of my need to replace the ‘de-cluttered’ books.

The Methods

Here are some methods for organising your book collection. I’ve already given you a clue about mine. Which is yours?

  1. The Librarian. Categories of books are grouped together: gardening, cookery, reference, poetry, travel books, biography, gifts from Aunty Doreen, fiction. Within the groups they are organised alphabetically by author. But here there are problems: do you put short stories on the fiction shelves? And do you put books about Jane Austen alongside her novels? Help!
  2. Willynilly. Wherever they fit (but they wont – see the rule). You end up with some serendipitous and some bizarre juxtapositions: I notice on my shelf that Happiness by Tad Ben-Shahar is next to Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem.
  3. Half and half. Some organisation for half of them, so that cookery books are in the kitchen, reference books by your computer and books by the same author pushed in together. Other half, as in Willynilly.
  4. Surprise. After some discussion about organising sheet music at choir I asked an alto how she organised her books. ‘They’re art books,’ she told me, ‘and I keep them in the cupboard.’ She explained that they needed to be kept in very good condition. Well there you are.
  5. Aesthetic. By colour. Very tasteful, but this method takes ages to arrange and books take even longer to be found. But that’s not the point (see method name). My nephew did actually arrange his collection by colour and it was enchanting (see photo for one I tried earlier; not exactly enchanting). But this method doesn’t solve the question – where would you put that gold covered copy of The Mirror Within by Anne Dickson? 205 book colour org
  6. By size. A serious drawback of this method is that you have to remember the size of a book in order to find it again. Another problem is that all those paperback books are the same size, so you probably need a sub-method to arrange the paperbacks.
  7. The Vita Sackville-West method – see the picture. This method suits people with sets with matching bindings: all Dickens, Samuel Pepys Diaries in four volumes, Great Works of American Novelists (male of course), Readers Digest World’s Greatest Novels (American of course).

    Vita Sackville-West's study

    Vita Sackville-West’s study

  8. Acceptance. This is what Sue said after summarising her book organising problems and attempts at resolution.

But I love my books and their contents. They are part of my well-lived life and precious friends, for whatever mood I am in. They are faithful and always there for me at whatever hour of day or night.
So I have learned to accept that books-and-me come as a package: Love me–love my books!

7. Other wild ways. Order of purchase. Height. Alphabetically by title. Stacked on their sides. Order of publication. Order of reading. On the stairs.

And what do you do with your books?

Go on. What do you do with yours? How have you resolved the issues?

 

To receive emails about future posts please subscribe by entering your email address in the box.

8 Comments

Filed under Books

To Kindle or not to Kindle?

Bloodless nerds: that’s how Kindle users were described by the well-known writer. It was July 2011 and we were at a literary festival. There was sustained applause from the audience for this remark. Bloodless nerds! It’s true, we were in BBCRadio4land, but this was offensive. So why does Kindle use arouse such passions, such rudeness and snobbery. I guess some of it is straightforward luddism. People are reluctant to learn how to link up to the web, invent passwords, and follow all those instructions. Some of this attitude arises from a bizarre idea that reading should not be easy, that it is almost shameful to be able to bring up your latest choice from your TBR pile almost anywhere: bus, back garden, beach, bed, plane, train.

61 Kindle

I don’t own a Kindle, but I don’t disapprove of them, just haven’t got round to getting one. In fact I haven’t touched one on more than two occasions, in shops where they were on display. This is strange, for in the last thirty years I have been something of an early adopter of various gadgets and technologies – fax, mobile, digital camera, laptop, smartphone, apps, blog, tweetery, facebook etc etc.

But although I have held one in my hand and imagined owning it, and despite seeing people on buses and trains with them, know it to be the indispensible holiday gadget (helps with the luggage allowance), seen the beautiful people on the adverts with a Kindle in a hammock, walking along the beach arm in arm (and would you really want a Kindle to read in that situation?) into the sun as it sets over the sea, despite all this I don’t have one. That is not because I don’t tend to go on beach holidays, and would rather look at the sunset and swim in the sea than light up my Kindle. And I have certainly coveted the Kindle covers, the faux Jane Austen, floral Cath Kidson, smart leather chic – still no Kindle. And I even considered going out and buying one when I was so shocked by the ‘bloodless nerd’ comment and the audience’s response. It would be a protest.

61 Kindle rainbow

E-readers tell me about the advantage of owning a Kindle, and as I understand it they are as follows:

1. The ease and speed of obtaining books that you want to read.

2. You don’t have books taking up shelfspace.

3. You don’t have to pack lots of books for that holiday or hospital stay.

4. You have access to the equivalent of the British Library in your pocket.

4. Some books are only available on e-readers.

I expect I have missed some.

61 kindle library

Are there any disadvantages?

Can you mark pages, lose and find postcards and other book marks in them, smell them, watch them yellow at the edge of the page? I like the physical aspects of books, as well as their constraints, having to decide about which to carry, being limited by what I have in my hand or on my shelf or available in the library or bookshop.

As well as being conservative in my habits, I do not want to be tempted to download lots of books, and I like waiting for them to arrive from the library or bookstore because I usually read something else in that time. I don’t want to carry another gadget (I got an iphone so I didn’t have to have to carry a phone as well as an ipod.) When I go on holiday to Africa in 2015 I probably will take one, but until then I’ll enjoy the slow exploration that hard copies require.

It seems I am not alone. Consider the passengers on the whimsically named Mayflower Express – the 11.06 from London Paddington to Plymouth – in the Quiet Coach where a bit of speedy research reveals that there is only one reader holding an e-reader. Seven people have books and two people are doing Sudoku, two reading the paper, one person writing on A4 lined paper (looks like a late University essay), one person is asleep, one person gazing out of the window at the gorgeous autumn landscape and one person is doing a survey of Kindle use. Only one out of eight readers was using a Kindle. I am not alone.

61 smart kindle

With Christmas coming up if someone wants to give me one that’s fine. But I don’t feel a need to get one.

 

Any thoughts on this topic? Do you mind being referred to as a ‘bloodless nerd’?

 

To subscribe and receive email notifications of further blogposts please enter your email address in the box at the top of the column on the right.

3 Comments

Filed under Books, Libraries, Reading

How do you organise your books?

The problem of organising your books is owning them. If you love books you own lots of them. You acquire them, read them, and then put them – where? On a shelf, in a pile, and immediately you are confronted with the persistent problem of how to organise your collection. Even the most evangelical of kindlers surely has some books to organise, unless they have been completely ruthless. Kindles may be the answer to the problem in the future, but I am not a convert to Kindle yet. That’s a topic to come back to.

It’s the rule, in organising books. There is never enough shelf space, however many books you own.

If you have ever cohabited with another reader, the rule means you have had to take urgent action and someone disposed of their copies of Women in Love, To Kill a Mocking Bird and The Collected Works of William Shakespeare. It can be a fraught time as you argue over the emotional value of your GCSE copy of Julius Caesar, or don’t want to part with the precise copy in which you encountered Atticus Finch. And remember, some people can’t bear to part with books under any circumstances. That’s another topic to come back to – recycling books.

When you move house books get put in boxes, and often left in boxes for weeks, months, even years. Two years ago I came across several boxes of books in my cellar that had been put there when I moved in 30 years before. I figured that if I hadn’t missed those books in 30 years I could send them on their way now. Anyway, see the rule. Not all of them have been recycled of course. Some of them snuck on the shelves (see method 2  below).

book organise DSC00171_2

Here are some methods for organising your book collection. I’ve already given you a clue about mine. Which is yours?

  1. The Librarian. Categories of books are grouped together: gardening, cookery, reference, poetry, travel books, biography, gifts from Aunty Doreen, fiction. Within the groups they are organised alphabetically by author.
  2. Willynilly. Wherever they fit (see the rule).
  3. Half and half. Some organisation for half of them, so that cookery books are in the kitchen, reference books by your computer and books by the same author pushed in together. Other half, as in Willynilly.
  4. Surprise. After some discussion about organising sheet music at choir I asked Yvonne, the alto sitting beside me, how she organised her books. ‘They’re art books,’ she told me, ‘and I keep them in the cupboard.’ Well there you are.
  5. Aesthetic. By colour. Very tasteful, but this method takes ages to arrange and books take even longer to be found. But that’s not the point (see method name). My nephew did actually arrange his collection by colour and it was enchanting (see photo for one I tried earlier; not exactly enchanting). But this method doesn’t solve the question – where would you put that gold covered copy of The Mirror Within by Anne Dickson?
  6. Other wild ways. Order of purchase. Height. Alphabetically by title. Stacked on their sides. Order of publication. Order of reading. On the stairs.

Go on. What do you do with yours?

12 Comments

Filed under Books, Reading