I am the sort of girl who likes to fumble through the pages of a book. The great thing about a proper book is it tells two stories: the one the author wanted you to read, learn and be absorbed in; and the one which the book itself tells. Of course this latter story varies for each and every book you pick up, whether that be a second-hand tattered and tea-stained novel, or a textbook with that brand-new-paper-smelling appeal – no two books share the same story whether a bestseller such as Harry Potter or Fifty Shades of Grey, or a start-up novel from a recent graduate just trying to launch herself into the increasingly competitive business. That is what I find most exciting about a book.
Whilst trawling through my Twitter thread the other day, I spotted that Waterstones had tweeted a link in an attempt to spark a debate about the rise of the eBook and how publishers are having to diversify their ways of presenting books, in order to keep the traditional print as popular as it once was. In many cases, this is leading bookstores to go back on their traditional motto “never judge a book by its cover.” I am of course, a book kind of girl. I have an iPad and find it handy for seminar reading when travelling on trains and whatnot, but there’s nothing better for me and sitting down with a cup of tea (milk, no sugar if I’m on home turf, black thé vert à la menthe when across the channel) and a proper book. It’s an instant de-stresser and relaxant.
It’s no longer a situation where we can use the youths as scapegoats for not wanting to read, or blame the big chain bookstores such as Waterstones for stamping over the market, now it’s their bigger brother’s fault: technology. All these factors when combined are killing the independent bookstore culture in England and I think it’s time we start to fight back. Whether that be amazon.com for their cheaper prices and increased availability for any book in your wildest dreams, or their minion the Kindle, books are sadly on their way out.
I was that person who sneered at my mother when she decided to purchase herself a Kindle. Despite appreciating that it allows you to take significantly larger quantity of books with you when jet-setting for less than the weight of one, I still like to lug mine around and complain about how heavy my bag is. Moving with the times is all very well and good, and I can see the pros to increasing ease of one’s everyday life, but do we really need another piece of technology to lug around with us? After all, if I drop my book in the pool I can retrieve it to its full use after hours in the sun drying out, I doubt the result would be the same should Mother have a bout of clumsiness.
For years in my hometown, there has been a shop which has changed hands on countless occasions. Ever since I can remember it has been a bookshop. I remember being sad when it stopped being an Independent retailer and was absorbed by the larger chain company. Like with the Waterstones on campus, petitions went out and complaints were made but to no avail: the chain came. Now, I’m starting to worry that if publishers and book companies don’t start to diversify and rebrand themselves, even that store will buckle under the pressure of the technological world, because at the end of the day it is more practical. To me a book has an air of romance to it and really, as authors like Jane Austen have taught us all, what’s practical about romance?
This got me thinking (once again) about my Year Abroad. On the metro, there are tonnes of books being flicked through on a day-to-day basis, but more noticeably, there are countless book shops. Not only are there an unprecedented amount of bookshops all over Lyon, but they are dominated by independent book shops selling an enormous variety: second-hand, brand new, international, French novels, classics, textbooks, travel guides, the list goes on. It’s that whole “keeping with tradition and culture” that the French do so well and the English quite frankly stink at.
I constantly probe at my flatmates at their nation’s appalling track record in terms of wars and battles, and to me this is another battle, and it’s another one I’d like the British to be best at.