Kate Lord Brown talks about The Real Thing

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Kate Lord Brown talks about The Real Thing

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Summary: Here at Bookbag Towers we were converted to our Kindles with almost indecent haste, but Kate Lord Brown thinks that there are a few points which we should consider before giving up on books completely.
Date: 9 March 2011

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The Real Thing

Here at Bookbag Towers we were converted to our Kindles with almost indecent haste, but Kate Lord Brown thinks that there are a few points which we should consider before giving up on books completely.

Books are gorgeous. Books are cheap. Books are a love affair that lasts a lifetime. These are just some of the reasons why while every other shop in town was empty last time I was home, the book store Waterstone’s was heaving. We may be in recession and some of the giant chains tumbling, but it seemed to me the one thing people haven't given up is buying books and the pleasure of browsing in a bricks and mortar bookstore. Books make people happy.

Kindle sales may have jumped 36% in the last quarter of 2010 to become Amazon’s best selling item ever, but I just don’t believe e-readers will ever completely kill off real books. I live overseas in a country where it is impossible to get a wide selection of books, so an e-reader is a necessary evil for me. I still can’t get the books I need to research my historical novels though – and for me the excitement of waiting for a delivery of ‘proper’ books from second hand bookstores in the UK far outweighs the sterile convenience of downloading a file.

It goes without saying that most writers are readers, that they love books. Every time I've wobbled over the last few years and thought (especially with two small children depending on us), that I should have stuck with a 'proper' job rather than juggling self-employment, family life and writing my debut novel, I remember careers day back at school. They were encouraging all the girls to become engineers - my eyes were glazing over rapidly - then Wendy Cope stepped onto the stage. It was an epiphany. She was vibrant, smart, funny - her poetry was accessible but moving and well observed. Unlike all the engineers they had rolled out to talk to us, she looked like she loved her work. I thought to myself: now that is a career. I envisaged a future in libraries and studies surrounded by books – not toting a neat little piece of electronics. How can you ‘furnish a room’ let alone make a house a home without proper books?

I love the tactile quality of books – the ease with which you can flip through the pages, turn corners down, the satisfaction of caressing a crease into a spine. I adore fonts, a well designed jacket, the texture of paper. The summer before university, one of my temp contracts was working at a paper mill. I spent a week typing invoices in payroll with a chain-smoking Harley riding Hells Angel (she kept her lunchtime cider under her desk), before being spirited upstairs to be PA to the MD for the rest of the contract. It was probably more entertaining in payroll, but at least I saw the paper being manufactured - it was like going through the round window in Playschool, huge rolls of virgin white paper whizzing round, machines the size of houses. I was in heaven. As a leaving gift the MD gave me as much paper as I could carry, (even then I was scribbling fiction during lunch breaks). The scribbles were mostly rubbish no doubt - but the first story I ever sold was typed on that paper.

Maybe you're like me - I not only love writing, but I love books, paper, pens, the swoosh of ink when the words are flowing well. If you see a blank sheet of paper (let alone vast whirling reams of the stuff), don't you just want to write on it? A love of books, of words, is a love that will last a lifetime. There are so many reasons I love real books, but here are just a few:

  • they are the great escape – you switch off from life. Anything too electronic makes me think of work
  • I love the smell of them, the look of them (all those colourful spines on the shelves, favourite covers facing out like artworks)
  • they are always there when you need them – I tend to have stacks of books at home in each room, in the car, usually too many in my voluminous handbag …
  • they last for days, weeks, and often when you get back together years later they're just as much fun as you remember. One glimpse of a yellowed cover in a second hand book store and the years fall away – it is like meeting an old friend
  • they go wherever you go - and take you places you've never (or always) dreamt of. Would you risk an e-reader on the beach or reading in the bath? What are a few wrinkled pages among friends?

Maybe you can think of a few more reasons why our love affair with books will last, or perhaps you are a total convert to Kindle? There’s room in this world for ebooks and proper books, but only room in my heart for the real thing.

Kate Lord Brown’s debut novel The Beauty Chorus is published by Corvus 1/4/11Bookfeatures.jpg Check out Bookbag's exciting features section, with interviews, top tens and editorials.

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