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Monday, 13 August 2012

ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPTS.

In conversation with Canadian author Karen Woodward, I uncovered the sinister workings of a curious cult. We were discussing anti-Kindle views. Not so much discussing. We’re both published on Kindle. Discussing? Laughing at.
   Paper books are awesome. Electronic books on e-reading devices represent fluff particles between Satan’s toes. One of the greatest nonsensical comments concerning e-readers is that in a power-cut, they are as nothing!
   Kindle is useless. When there’s a power-cut, the Kindle won’t do you any favours. But a book is power-free, not powerless. Er, yes. And when the sun goes down, the power-free paper book, with its glow-in-the-dark ink, will far surpass the powerless Kindle. Mm.
   Resistance to the electronic reading device is visceral. The main problem seems to be a stance against the concept of a machine for reading. Pardon me, but isn’t that what a paper book is? It is. The book has moving parts. It’s a machine. Still an excellent storage-device.
   Smashing a Kindle is akin to burning down an entire library. I’ve said before that Kindle isn’t an ideology. Amazon isn’t an enemy nation. Reading is important. My enemies are time and illiteracy. Not e-readers.
   Hell, I don’t want to get into a rant. (That’s next week’s post. Seriously.) There isn’t much to say to you on the topic of e-reading. You are, after all, reading this electrically. Electronically. Whether on my blog, or in a collected edition of my blog posts.
   Some people come down against e-readers. Why? Oh, it’s not the same as reading a book. Well, not exactly – that much is true. But it’s almost the same as reading a book. Clue? Reading. I don’t see the fuss.
   Yes, paper publishing is taking a bashing. Are so many people, readers, mentally invested in paper publishing companies? I don’t believe so. Investment in holding a weighty tome in the hands may apply, perhaps. This is where Kindle is missing a trick. There should be a 5 lb version, for people who want the weight of a REAL book in their mitts. From Kindle Touch to Kindle Lump. Non-hands-free.
   As for laziness stemming from machines…yes. Let’s walk everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Even in an emergency, when helicopter air-ambulance is the only way to fly. We’ll rely on butter knives for surgery. And candles for light. Why don’t we return to the hard-working model of the Victorian kitchen? Because the microwave is evil, after all.
   Computers, in whatever form, encourage innovation. On a personal level. In the old brain-box. If machines like that truly made us lazy, our species would have suffered a catastrophic failure at some point in the last decade.
   Perhaps that happened, and I’m too lazy to have noticed. Harassed bookworms shouldn’t have to lug a small vanload of books around. E-reading. It’s going to be the norm, for a long long time. Then the brain-chip will come in. Unless…the brain-chip came in, and I’m stuck on the factory-setting that allows me to pretend I’m using the old Real World operating system.
   Other strange thoughts burbling to the surface and noted by two authors? We discovered that books were perceived as sexier than e-readers. There must be a way to redress (undress) the balance. Kindles aren’t sexy. Could they be?
   They should be red, as well as read. With curves. And sultry come-hither eyes at the top of the display. Perhaps I should go back a step. If Kindles aren’t sexy, does that mean books are always going to be?
   That frisky little minx of a volume just begging for attention, down there on my shelf of classics. Oh how I’ve missed her. The way she stands out on the shelf. Pouting. With her come-hither air, and…ah, her scent. It’s not Chanel. But…something more refined. Natural. Pine. Like the trees. Not that she’d be made of pine.
   Okay, enough of that. Before I am carried away by white-coated attendants. It’s the cliché. The idea of curling up with a good book. On a rainy night. Lost in a plump sofa. Snapping a square of dark chocolate to go with that coffee. Comfortable, in a pool of light. In bare feet. For this is a sofa commercial. And bare feet provide the cliché.
   I haven’t discussed the cult. This blog post is called ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPTS. I’m an author. Karen Woodward is an author. We compared notes. Is it true to say that all authors once read books under the covers, beyond bedtime?
   Research. I consulted myself, and, after a brief survey, I found this to be true. Of those reading this post – those who did the same – many of you will have used a flashlight. I used a torch. It is important to stress that this was no flaming brand.
   I’d come across traces of the cult in books. Introducing Wuthering Heights, Charlotte Cory admitted to membership of this VAST VAST cult of illuminated readers. What of my colleague, and her research? Karen admitted that she, too, held membership of the cult.
   After a quick mental survey of reading-habits, she concluded that all of her friends had succumbed to the lure of this illicit ritual of disappearing under covers with a portable electric light and a book. Hardbacks were always easier on the reader…
   I must stress that in my writing, reader means a reader of material. Not the device which provides the reading material. An e-reader is an electronic reading device. Whereas a p-reader has no battery. Just thought I’d clear that up.
   A hardback could be propped so as to turn the cover into a mini-tent. This led to an obvious disadvantage. The night-shattering sound of the turned page scraping against bedlinen as the story unfolded. Yes, a strange cult to those not familiar with the experience.
   Knowing when to quit reading was a fine art. When the batteries faltered. Sir Isaac Newton’s rule indicates that, all things being equal, internal human batteries fail before those that are zinc-based. You nod off before the light goes.
   The technique of book-disposal was important. Lodge the tome in the bed with you, as though a trusted teddy. Slide the book gradually out of the warmth into the icy wastes of the darkened bedroom. Or thump the hardback on the floor, waking people three streets along.
   Books must be worth reading. The statement goes doubly, trebly, for books read under the covers. You really are in a self-contained world, if reading that way. Of course, I wouldn’t for a moment suspect any adults of reading in this fashion. Devouring books by artificial light, inside an artificial tent, is a game for the young persons.
   (Or is it?)
   Back to the Kindle. Are the young persons going to read Kindle books under the covers? One more battery charge to be concerned about. No rustling pages to worry over. Though the page rustling could easily be added to e-reading devices for those who hanker after the experience. There might be a market for second-hand e-books…
   How would you go about that? Give readers the option of the same story, made available with the odd crinkled or dog-eared section. Sun-yellowed pages. A mashed, dehydrated, spider here. Cigarette-burn there. Random photos inserted between chapters.
   Yes, I received those with a second-hand book bought on Amazon. I won’t show the photos here, as family members may not wish to be paraded on the internet. One picture is of two dogs. The other is of an elderly lady in hospital in the company of a young woman named Abby.
   It is unlikely that giving that information will lead to the return of the photos. I can’t for the life of me remember which second-hand book those emerged from. Ah, yes. I remember. Best to hold details like that back. No crank-calls, now.
   I know the lady’s name, the name of her consultant, and two nurses – all displayed on a plaque somewhere in the photo. The date attached to the photo indicates that the elderly lady may no longer be with us. It is likely that Abby is the elderly lady’s granddaughter, though that is by no means certain.
   We’ll restrict the location to mainland or offshore Britain. The photos might have served as bookmarks, at one time. Yes, I could go through the seller to see if I might return the images to the original owner of the book. But I thought it would be more high-tech to throw this open to the blog.
   Given that 0.75 people read my blog, and that most of those fractional individuals are American, I don’t hold out much hope of a response. This is a message going out in a digital bottle. Prompted by my thoughts of old-fashioned reading-habits. Paperbacks and hardbacks under the covers. Bookmarks. The scent of paper as it slowly ages under our all-consuming star.
   So. If Abby reads this and thinks that she posed in a hospital with an elderly lady, she should throw some details my way at the blog’s e-mail address. There’s a prize – the return of some photos. What do I get out of it if no one responds? A few paragraphs in this blog.
   Yes, I veered off again. I do that, from time to time.

NEXT BLOG: IF YOU PUBLISH SHIT, AT LEAST YOU PUBLISH IT.

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