The book and the book
(I have no intention of explaining how the dialogue which I now offer to the public fell into my hands.)
Paperback book: Buy me! Buy me! I am handsome and traditional, and completely distinct from all my brothers and sisters. We are all beautiful individuals.
Electronic book: Buy me! Buy me! I am so much more compact and convenient, and all my 2,000,000 siblings and I can fit in my reader’s pocket without getting squashed. If your name is “War and Peace”, you are too fat to get into a pocket even alone. We are all also just as individual as you, because it is our words, our true selves, that make us so, not our outward exteriors, or “costumes”, as you might say.
Paperback: But books do furnish a room: proper books do. The homeowning bookworm looks up at his or her shelves, and sighs with pleasure at the sight. Also, they are so much easier to browse through before bedtime.
Ebook: There’s a dark side to that, and all sensible people should be aware. You, PB, lead innocent readers astray. How many succumb every day to picking up a paper-and-ink THING and leafing through, on and on, while the unforgiving minute turns into the unforgiving hour? And they lose forever the time they should have been spending on homework, washing up, writing their blog or just talking to their spouse. Old-fashioned books are responsible for all sorts of ills… up to and including marriage breakdown!
PB : Now you’re getting hysterical, and temperamental, just like all computers.
EB: I AM NOT A COMPUTER! I am a book! I am an easy-to-access-and-carry real book, contained as if by magic on an electronic device. I have many advantages to the discerning reader.
PB (Paddington Bear): Such as?
EB (Eeby-jeeby): I have already mentioned several. Also, and significantly, my font can be increased in size, to assist the short-sighted. It is easy to add notes in many different colours.
Paddington: I can be annotated also.
Eeby-jeeby: Do you call those illiterate scribbles, or worse still, underlinings, annotation? Writing or drawing on a printed book is sacrilege!
Padd: Calm down, dear.
Eeby: Not only is my reader less tempted to fritter away time, he/she is less likely to sabotage their own enjoyment by the foolish expedient known as “peeking ahead.”
Padd: My readers never peek ahead.
Eeby: Your nose is growing, Pinocchio. I am much much easier and quicker to buy.
Padd: I offer the delightful experience of browsing in an actual bookshop. (Although the Amazon expedient is also available.) Which will also often sell coffee and cake. And secondhand books, the most beautiful of all. Did you know that early green Penguins (crime) had adverts in the backs for miscellaneous items such as jewellery? Isn’t that interesting, and wouldn’t you love to own a book like that? Or a book that had “To Jessie on her birthday, from her devoted papa, 1909” written on the flyleaf?
Eeby: Along with the pencil comment “10 p each”? Also, if I am out of copyright, I can often be purchased totally free.
Padd: Mutter, mutter, charm of ancient volume falling apart in hands, mutter. Reading a real book is a proper experience. All right, so occasionally the reader can’t wait to find out the murderer, but at least you know what you’re reading, and can see how far you’ve got to go. And it’s easier to flick back to check the name of the victim’s grandson, who was mentioned somewhere near the beginning as having run off to Paris nineteen years ago at the age of six.
Eeby: You seem to be referring exclusively to crime stories… My primary and most convincing argument is still to be made.
Padd: That you break down?
Eeby: In almost all cases, I am much cheaper than you.
Eeby: Much cheaper. And therefore, I think we can deduce, much less expensive to produce, and therefore much better for the environment. How can anyone live with themselves who goes and buys paper objects, manufactured from an innocent rain forest, and probably brings them home from the shop in a planet-destroying plastic bag?
Padd: Better for the environment? No one can even read you without electricity! You need batteries and power and all sorts! Whereas I, once bought, am completely carbon neutral.
Eeby: As long as you’re being read on a sunny day.
Eeby: Ever heard of electric light? Or can all your readers see in the dark?
Padd: The point remains. I will last for a hundred years, although I am also readily recyclable. You will be useless come the collapse of civilisation, and will refuse to decompose.
Eeby: You are clutching at (bio-degradable) straws here, I see. My readers can carry thousands of works of great literature in the same space that your readers would need for one misery memoir. And (after the initial outlay on the ebook reader) I am a quarter the price of you. Really, I cannot understand why anyone buys the likes of you any more.
Padd: It’s a sensual tactile aesthetic thing. You wouldn’t understand.
Love from the PPI Blogger
PS. Literary references to the works of among others China Mieville and C S Lewis included at no extra charge! The contributions of Rebekah and Clint Redwood to this post are gratefully acknowledged.