Why Kindles aren’t (too) bad

Everyone seems to have a very strong opinion about whether reading e-books, most popularly on Kindles and other e-readers, is good or bad. The debate seems to centre around Kindle vs Physical Books, with the main arguments normally consisting of weight (aka, the ability to carry many books on Kindle instead of just one or two physical books), feel, authenticity, and preserving the bookshop.

As a bookseller, I have my own opinions on this topic, but as a reader I have even more – put together, there’s really only one sentence that I think really sums up my thoughts on whether we should use Kindles or Physical books and that is:

Reading is reading.

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Before starting my work in a bookshop, I predominantly used my Kindle. It was light, it was easy, and books were far, far cheaper. I hadn’t picked up a proper physical book in a long time, and the books I typical read were more romance and whimsical, with no real weight to them (pun intended, although that was a pretty poor one). I still classed myself as a bookworm and voracious reader, but it wasn’t until I started working in a bookshop that I realised how much it felt like I missed out on. My first day of work, I walked into the staff room to see everyone reading proof copies of A Little Life by Hanya Yanigihara, which of course I then picked up and read (review here). Not to sound too cheesy, but this book honestly changed my life, and completely changed the way I read books. All these books I’d read on Kindle couldn’t even hold a candle to this novel – because whilst you can get all sorts of books on e-readers, I tended to buy the cheapest, which didn’t always mean they were the best quality. For my first year of work, as you can see on this blog, I continued to read on my Kindle, but also began to read more and more physical books, and really from the beginning of 2017 I’ve barely used my Kindle.

For me, it felt like my love for books and reading had be reignited. When a customer comes in and talks about buying all these books they see on their Kindle, I usually shake my head and tut. “It’s the independent bookshops you’re killing!” I’ll tell them with a laugh, as they sheepishly grin. And whilst this holds truth, and whilst I still believe that Amazon is the devil in the book world, I don’t think we should discourage the use of Kindles, e-readers, and other ways of accessing e-books.

As I said earlier, e-books are usually far cheaper than physical books. For 99p, someone can download many different books straight onto their phone or computer. In this age of technology, there are so many ways someone can access reading – and no matter what, I stand by my opinion that reading is reading, and no form of reading should be discouraged. Whilst older generations may wag their fingers at youngsters reading books on their phones, what they’re doing is not discouraging using phones to read books, but reading entirely. Kids may be more attracted to shiny gadgets over paper (and what a generalisation that is, a stereotype that everyone uses), but what should that matter if they’re reading? For them, it means they may well pick up the new Percy Jackson or Roald Dahl or even Dickens, but will read it on their phone instead of buying a physical copy. For many, they can’t afford to buy books and don’t have access to a library, so to have a more painless, easy way to access literature is a godsend.

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I joke around a lot about Amazon, threatening to disown members of my family who buy physical books off there (and I hold by that threat, no family of mine buys physical books off Amazon without incurring my wrath), but what they have managed to do is bring a new dimension to reading. I for one am a huge fan of audiobooks, something which I would never have dreamed of investing my time in before audible became available to download on my phone.

Reading is reading, and whether someone is reading from a huge tome, a computer, a phone or a Kindle, no one should be discouraged from unlocking these many worlds that books bring to us.

Rant over.

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June Book Haul

It’s been a while since I’ve let myself go crazy with buying books, but after my birthday last month I not only received money to buy some books, but also received plenty of actual books from friends. It seemed apt to have a little post to commemorate the 21st birthday book haul, and maybe introduce you to some books you may not have seen.

First: the stack.

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This, ladies and gentleman, is the mighty stack of books that make up this haul post. Seven of them were gifts and the rest were picked up by me, so we’ll go from top to bottom.

You can see that the first four books are much smaller that the others, and these are from the new Vintage Minis series from Penguin. The series is made up of books on subjects, everything from Babies and Swimming to Drugs and Death. They look beautiful as a collection and each one is written by an incredible author – and they’re all £3.50 each, so win-win. The ones that I decided to pick up were Liberty by Virginia Woolf, Desire by Haruki Murakami, Love by Jeanette Winterson, and Death by Julian Barnes. These are perfect insights to an array of subjects and will also give you a taste for the writing from these unbelievable authors. I’m especially interested in reading Winterson’s Mini, as I’m a fan of her Weight which I did for my dissertation, as well as reading something from Murakami, a very popular author who I’ve yet to read anything from.

Next on my pile is American Gods by Neil Gaiman which, spoiler, is not the only book that I’ve picked up from him. I absolutely adored Neverwhere, and have been thinking about reading something else from Neil Gaiman for a while. As there is now a TV show on the book, one that everyone adores, I figure that American Gods should be the next one I try to delve into – despite it being one hell of a chunky book.

I then picked up two books from J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye and Franny & Zooey. I’ve never read the first, a classic that everyone has heard of, and the latter has been recommended to me by some colleagues who say it is one of their favourite classics. As someone who is trying to read more classics, I thought these two would be good to pick up and have a try.

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Moving on to the books that were gifts by my brilliant friends who have excellent tastes (which is to be expected, as most of them are also booksellers). I received Hotel World by Ali Smith, an author I have been desperate to read something from for ages, so couldn’t be happier with this pick. The same friend also bought be Chess by Stefan Zweig and Hold Your Own by Kate Tempest, both of which I have already finished. Coming from someone who sometimes struggles with ‘classics’, which for me is not the same as ancient classics which I adore, Chess was perfect. As a novella, it was easy to digest and get through without feeling bogged down at any moment, but it by no means lacked in description or character development. Exquisitely crafted, this is definitely one I’ll be recommending to others in the future. If you read this blog, you’ll know that I recently tried milk and honey and didn’t enjoy it as much as I had hoped. Reading a poetry collection from Kate Tempest, however, showed me everything that I wanted from poetry and more. Especially considering that I adore ancient mythology, this collection is framed around Tiresias, a character from Greek mythology, and the messages and themes that it depicts were just stunning and perfect. I have definitely been won over.

Then we have How To Be Parisian, the perfect coffee-table book which I received, and I’m hoping it will make me more stylish (though I’m not holding my breath). I was then given another clothbound classic, which was Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys to add to my ever-growing collection.

After that, something I’m very excited about, is The Secret History by Donna Tartt, which was given to me – pretty much all of my colleagues and friends outside of the book industry have told me how amazing this book is and how much I’m going to love it, so I’m at once excited and nervous about picking it up. The final book I was given was Insomniac City by Bill Hayes, and whilst I’m usually not too good with non-fiction I have heard nothing but good things about this one, so I cannot wait.

Then, last but not least, I bought Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. As we all know, I absolutely adore all things mythology, but I haven’t had a chance to delve into norse mythology – until now. Considering how much of a fantastic writer Neil Gaiman is anyway, I’m sure that this book will be as entertaining as it is informative, so I can’t wait to start it.

And that brings me to the end of my June book haul! Let me know if you’ve read anything in this pile, or even if you have any more recommendations (preferably for books, but I’ll take what I can get).

If you haven’t already, you can always follow me on Goodreads if you’re interested to see what I’m reading (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/25185380-eleanor). Currently, I’m reading I Love Dick by Chris Kraus and the novelty has worn off, so I now feel very anxious reading it on public transport.

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Ban Reading Shame

There are certain genres of books that people just don’t want to admit that they like, usually because of the people they’re around or their own crippling self-doubt and anxiety about being liked (ahem, go read my post about this here on my other blog). It ties in with the concept of the ‘guilty pleasure’, the books/music/films that you have to label as something you’re not proud of, often due to the fact that others don’t deem it as high brow or intellectual enough to worthy being acceptable pieces of content to enjoy.

I, for one, admit that I have often lied, or more often haven’t admitted, what it is that I really like to read – in the real world, at least. And it varies depending on where I am. For the most part in university, I felt ashamed to admit that I could never really get into the ‘classics’ canon like Dickens or Bronte, so usually I’d just smile and nod. Almost everyone uses the line ‘But you’re an English student, how can you not like ___’ and let me tell you, it pisses me off every single time. Just because my degree is Classics with English does not mean that in my free time I read War and Peace for fun, or during parties I debate the use of pathetic fallacy within Little Dorrit. The stigma that is attached to certain books is sometimes just too high, and it’s a lot of pressure to be under. I am happy to admit with no trace of lie or sarcasm that there are a few ‘classics’ that I have enjoyed, such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. I’m currently listening to Bleak House on audible to change up how I receive these types of texts, and I’m hoping to slowly plug away at them – but not because other people think I should read them, and instead only because I have an interest to. It seems the more you feel like you have to read a book, be it for school/work/social pressures, the more likely you won’t enjoy it as much.

The same thing happened to me at work when I first started as a bookseller. I felt the need to say that I read popular literary fiction, and all the upcoming ‘high brow’ titles some customers would ask for with their cuttings from the Sunday Times. Though for some reason, and it’s only just come to me, nobody really cares – or, at least, nobody that matters at least. Especially in an environment like a bookshop, it’s so important to have people who are passionate about all kinds of books. Sure, one colleague could be a huge fan of reading biographies and the other devours one thriller after the next, but if a customer comes in asking for something romantic that includes people turning into animals, they’re going to be a bit stumped. The same as I am when someone comes in asking for a certain poet’s work, when I don’t really have a clue about poetry in the slightest (something I’m trying to change). Whilst I want to be a bookseller who reads diversely, which is what I’m aiming to do with my reading challenge that includes reading from genres I don’t normally pick up, it’s important to embrace what I enjoy reading – and it will come to no surprise to you if you’ve read this blog before, that I am a hardcore fantasy fanatic. Add in a dragon, and it’ll be tricky for you to make me dislike it.

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I love pure escapism, and fantasy is the genre that delivers that to me every single time. In between studying and work, I want to consume something completely different, and if it’s got wizards or dragons or flying purple squirrels what should it matter? There’s a stigma attached to genres like fantasy, dictating who should enjoy them and who should be ashamed about enjoying them, and there’s a similar attitude with genres such as Young Adult. Some seem to think that you can only be a certain age to be allowed to read YA, and that age is usually confined to teenagers not yet out of school, despite the fact that YA is usually aimed generally at 16-25 year olds, but is more than happy to appeal to everyone. So what if you find pleasure in reading something that isn’t specifically within your ‘age range’? Reading is about enjoyment, and if you don’t find it in one genre then you might as well go find it in another. Don’t let others stop you from doing what you love and, hey, you’re reading. You’re already a lot better off than most people.

So, just enjoy what you love and don’t think about everyone else. You do you, that’s all any of us can really do. Whether you love romances that are so cheesy you almost feel cheesed out, or whether you like to read children’s books because they’re fun. After all, Harry Potter is technically classed as 5-8, yet hundreds of thousands of people read it all the time – often there’s more shame if you haven’t read them. So don’t worry about what everyone else thinks, and just go forth and read whatever you damn please.