Tag Archives: ebooks

A Night Less Ordinary

I went to a do at Soho House this week (and lost any cool factor I might have tried to fake by failing to find the entrance). No, it wasn’t the launch of a new vodka, or a pre-Fashion Week party. It was a book swap.

Admittedly it didn’t have much in common with the book swaps of my experience, in village halls or at school fetes. These events are the brainchild of a new literary project/journal, Tale of Three Cities, and, as befitting a name stocked in the très cool Colette store in Paris, the evening looked at first like a study in ‘geek chic’. There was a cocktail called Huckleberry Gin and great music and plenty of thick-framed vintage specs and ironic knits on show. But, all that besides, it was really just a gathering of people who love books, who wanted to spend the night talking about them, sharing them, and ultimately, to leave with an exciting new read.

The premise of the evening was a fantastic ice-breaker. I went with a friend, but once we were inside we didn’t see each other until it was time to try and catch the last tube home. We were too busy chatting with complete strangers about books.

The swap itself must be handled delicately. I brought When God Was a Rabbit with me, in case there were any uninitiated in its wonders. I could tell that the first person I talked to was pretty keen on my book – but first I needed to find a way of reading the back of hers without giving her false hope.

You also have to avoid the “oversell”, so I placed mine on the bar and watched from a safe distance, leaving it there for punters to admire undisturbed before sidling over when they picked it up and giving my recommendation. Creepy, but it worked – I didn’t manage to hang onto it for very long.

I walked away with a wonderfully antique edition of Don’t Look Now and other stories by Daphne du Maurier, though I made the mistake of starting the titular story before I went to bed (for anyone who hasn’t read it, it’s every bit as creepy as Nicolas Roeg’s film adaptation).

I can’t imagine a better activity for a Monday night – any night, in fact. I suspect that by the end of 2012 my bookshelves will be completely refurnished – an exciting, if somewhat nerve-wracking prospect.

Posted by Lucy Foley, Editorial

Twitter: @lucyfoleytweets

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To Eread or not to Eread

Christmas is a time of plenty – more sleep, more food, and more TV Christmas specials than are good for one’s health. It’s also a wonderful time to be immersed in an abundance of books, those tomes you’ve been meaning to devour all year.

I wanted to finish The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, read The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, Stuart Macbride’s Birthdays For The Dead, Conquest by Stewart Binns, Pd James’ Death Comes To Pemberley and our very own Jonny by Jonny Wilkinson. It was an eclectic list but what they all had in common was that they were hardbacks and stonkingly heavy.

I love hardbacks, their texture, weight, binding, head and tail bands, coloured boards, exotic end pages – they are objects of beauty. The first editions can be signed and cherished as limited editions and displayed on shelves as small segments of one’s inner autobiography.

But they weigh a ton, like carrying a bag full of house bricks. So this year I downloaded them as ebooks onto my ipad, tentatively at first as if I was committing a biblical sin, but then with increasing relish as they floated into my ibook library as simply and easily as breathing.

I have crossed the line and I don’t feel very good about it. My ipad is a little bulky but it carries the universe. Wherever I go there’s a stock of rich narrative at my fingertips. It’s as seductive as Christmas morning used to be, a bulging stocking, a pyramid of presents under the tree. My ibook library looks like a row of jewels, each book side by side in colourful miniature, compressed with intention and promise.

The ebooks are so much easier to read, no broken spines, heft on your knees as you read in bed, straining not to crease the pages. The backlight on the Ipad can wither the eyes in the dark but reading first thing in the morning, in bed, on holiday, is like the sun has just risen.

A part of me feels regret that technology has replaced simple pleasures. But like childhood, you sometimes have to say goodbye to things that used to matter. However, I’ve not abandoned the hardback, in fact I tend to buy two editions of any novel I love. I’ll purchase the hardback as a first edition, shelve it and read the ebook. As for Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, things got out of hand. I bought the UK and US hardback and the ebook, a triple whammy of indulgence.

I’m sure my book buying is not typical, but maybe the hardback will survive the electronic onslaught if my peculiar book purchase habit is adopted by many. And perhaps, as the memory of Christmas excess recedes, ebooks will grow the book market, converting new readers through ease of access and range of choice, drawing more people into the endless and unique world of storytelling pleasures. Is this the beginning of a golden age of reading?

Posted by Martin Fletcher, Editorial

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