I know it’s been an incredibly shameful long time since my last blog, and from now on I am going to force myself to try and write at least once a week because I have missed it, craved it even. As cliché as it sounds however, I just haven’t had the time to properly sit and think. Starting an internship with a renowned theatre has kept me crazy busy to say the least! Such things have meant my blogs have been abandoned, remaining as quick scribbles here and there, most of them illegible and so frantically written they were written on the wonk, diagonally across the page. But for this entry, I shall not try and amalgamate all the recent busy (but in the grand scheme of things mundane) events of my little life, but rather talk about a subject that is fresh in my mind from this week: the love of words and its fate in the face of new technologies, changing the way we access and thus, experience, literature. And I’m afraid to say, and I thought I would never say it, that I have succumbed to the highly expedient and cringe-worthy ultra modern looking, Kindle. My argument for wanting one however, is justified, to save money. There is nothing more depressing to me than not having anything to read, and with the cost of books rising, I just had to succumb to the allure of “convenience” and “cheaper books” even “free classics” which the use of a Kindle offers. As our man Oscar so rightly says, “I can resist everything but temptation.”
With the prospect of having to get used to using a Kindle and having only just finished the beautifully written novel Atonement by Ian McEwan, this got me thinking, will it take the joy out of reading? After all, there is nothing like cuddling up on a cold drizzly day next to a warm fire with a good book in your hand.
On the other hand however, one may argue that it is purely the language that matters, and nothing else and there are some beautiful, there is no other word for it, beautiful and memorable snippets of McEwan’s language in Atonement. But then I can argue that the whole coming together of a book is a piece of art, from the cover, to how it’s broken into various parts, the mere weight of how it feels in your hand.
On second thoughts however, what is the main experience of reading a book based on? Language of course, consequently, one could argue what does it matter what form that language takes? Just because it is on a screen and not a paper page, as long as you have the author’s words, you should be able to experience and gain what you would have done when just reading from the paper book…shouldn’t you?
Although a strong argument, something in me still just wants to shout: “yes, but there just isn’t anything like the feeling of a book in your hand” I think I feel this way because the use of electronic books on a screen totally ruins my notion of childhood. I have great childhood memories of going to the local library with my mum, sitting on the animal shaped floor cushions (my favourite was the orange Elephant) and flicking through books I would want to take home. One that is etched in my brain is a story called Dogger by Shirley Hughes, not only did the glossy pages include mesmerizing illustrations, the language created unforgettable scenes of colour and action, from the birthday party to the village fete, to when all is well with the children tucked up in bed at home, all of which made the story totally absorbing for a little one. The Guardian voted it as Classic of the Month in 2004, celebrating it as the perfect bedtime story to read out loud, and I know I will get it for whenever I have children. It’s about when a little boy Dave loses his favourite toy Dogger, and ends up feeling totally desolate. But then hope is restored when Dogger turns up at the local garden fete, until someone buys him before Dave can get the money. Naturally in the end all turns out all right, Dogger returns to his rightful owner, leaving the readers with that warm feeling of security and feeling safe at home, hence that perfect bed time story, giving you warm and fuzzy feelings.
So although I have gone a little bit off track my conclusion is this: to what extent should we move with the times and let technology take over books? Although it appears unarguable that the use of language is the most vital part of forming our reading experience, will the use of screens and not tangible, memorable pages, ultimately, ruin our ‘love of words?’ Will that bed time story turn into the tapping of a Kindle or Ipad instead of parent and child turning each page together and simply enjoying the unravelling of a story, which ultimately nurtures the most important thing of all: a love of words…