I have loved books since I can’t remember. Suffice is to say that I still remember the Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer book I was tearfully forced to leave behind in England as a small child when my family immigrated to Tasmania. A book read is a book to be owned, held onto, caressed and kept on display on a shelf, hence my small Victorian cottage is bulging at the seams with just about every book I have ever read.
But recently I have begun to question my obsession. After receiving over 800 books during the two years I was CBCA reading judge, and also being in two adult reading groups, involving therefore two books every month, plus the extra ten the focus books lead me onto, I really have had to rationalize not only the storage space but also, since retirement, the cost of this mania.
Firstly I have begun to use the library more. Next, secondhand bookshops have become the first port of call when looking for a particular book. Then finally if this fails and friends also can’t help, I will indulge myself and buy. The problem with the library is that for some reason the very book I want to borrow is NOT located at Launceston LINC, or everyone else in Launceston needs the same book and I have to wait at least three months before my turn comes. There is usually a date associated with my book group reading so timing really is important.
Last year I was travelling through Europe and when planning to be away for two months I knew I would need at least ten books to while away the long flights and rest times on the trip. The majority of my travelling was to be through foreign countries where finding books in English might prove time consuming. So here was another bookish problem. How could I possibly pack this number of books; sufficient clothes and shoes; allow for the odd purchase along the way and still come in under the thirty two kilo weight restriction imposed by airline companies?
Being a self confessed bookophile who just loves to hold a book in my hands, or admire them lined up on the wall to wall bookshelves in my study, I now have to confess that my thoughts and book acquisition habits are changing. I bought an ipad!!! This solved the travelling problem. At the touch of a button I downloaded all the books I wanted to read on my travels. Amazingly I realized that I could solve the library waiting list as well. This of course doesn’t eliminate the costs of reading but in many cases I can buy the book I want on line for less. I must confess this makes me feel very disloyal to my bookseller friends and I haven’t come to terms with that aspect of my new bookishness yet although the ipad option has not diminished that feeling that I must buy a book when I walk into a book store and that mysterious need still has me impulse buying ‘the real thing’.
And on the subject of a device not being conducive to reading in bed; I find the ipad much easier and lighter to hold in the prone position, especially with very long tomes.
After all this change of attitude, there was one book domain that I could not see altering for me and that was picture books. I am a very doting Grandmother of a child who just loves books and who has inherited all the beautiful books from my judging years plus more. His favourite book is ‘The Very Cranky Bear,’ by Nick Bland. In our eyes nothing could replace the hard copy held between us as we read for the hundredth time about ‘the jingle, jangle jungle on a cold and rainy day’. But wait, there’s more.
At the CBCA conference earlier this year, a colleague from my judging days asked had I seen the new ‘Very Cranky Bear’ app. Well two minutes later I was hooked. Our treasured book in all its exact pictorial and verbal splendour, on my ipad with even more exciting embellishments, like having it read to the pre-independent reader by someone other than grandma, Mum or Dad; music to enhance the mood, characters that move and shake to suit the situation, cards to collect for a surprise activity at the end and a microphone option that allows the small reader to read and record the story in his/her own voice. (He knows it off by heart but also knows which words go with which pages; good start to becoming an independent reader.)
Well that was a major change of attitude! Yes, there can be an electronic version of a picture book as equally appealing as ‘the real thing’, but I must say I prefer that the hard and electronic copy be used in tandem much like I would advise a teenager to read ‘The Hunger Games’ before seeing the film. Consequently the grandson now has ‘The Very Ichy Bear’, The Very Hungry Bear’ and ‘The Wrong Book’, (all by Nick Bland) in both hard and electronic versions.
I still haven’t reached the stage of believing that electronic books will fully replace hard copy books and I will continue to gaze at my bookshelves with love and satisfaction, but I am also beginning to appreciate the new dimension of pleasurable reading that technology affords us.