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Silver Surfer Articles
43. Books versus Kindle

Yes, we are using the same graphic for this article as we did for the last one because both of them are about reading, but this one more so!  In the beginning was the word, Kindle. There are various quotes that show that we the human race are really good at putting our size 13 feet in it. One of my favourites was that attributed to the chairman of IBM In 1943, “I think there is a world market for about five computers.”  I don’t know who originated my other favourite one, “Computers will do away with the need for paper,” but how many acres of rainforest have fallen since that one!!!
Not long ago I heard someone suggesting that the advent of the hand-held book reader would eventually do away with books. I suspect Kindle and similar gizmos are here to stay and that, my fellow aging friends, is quite likely to be another of those generation gaps things. As this has mulled around in the back of my mind recently I thought it was probably time for a celebration of books here while hopefully not appearing a Luddite.

From the outset let me confess that I do occasionally read books on my computer. If you want to get hold of an old book easily, a visit to who now claim they have over 42,000 free books, is worthwhile. A Google search will elicit a number of other sites where books can be read on line, so yes, I do occasionally read on line but I’m not very comfortable doing it. I am a book person!  Indeed we, the silver surfers, are the book generation; we grew up with books unlike the youngest generation which is being fed on hand held ‘tablets’  (which adds a new meaning to “Keep taking the tablets Jim!”)

So, books!  Big books, little books, thin books, thick books, anthologies, almanacs, annuals and adventures, biographies, cartoon books, children’s books, catalogues, compendiums, dictionaries, encyclopaedias, fantasy, folios, first-editions, fiction and non-fiction, hardbacks and paperbacks, limited editions, manuals, monographs, mysteries and memoirs, novels, omnibuses, romances, science fiction, textbooks, thrillers, and so many more (fill in the letters I’ve missed if you can.)

The problem with books is that so often we don’t know they are there and that’s where my friends at Amazon fall down on the Waterman’s store in Southend High Street, or in the local library for that matter. Amazon are incredibly good if you know exactly what you want, but if you are just wanting something to read or even to get as a present for someone, browsing a bookshop  cannot be beaten.

Of course you can go over the top with that. I see Foyles in Charing Cross Road is still there advertising itself as supplying “the widest range of titles of any bookshop in the UK.”  I remember wandering from room to room, to building to building, in a daze at the shear number of books there. No, I now prefer the smaller bookstore, especially the ones following the American style of incorporating a coffee shop and having a wonderful children’s activity area.  Even if you scan on line you can’t get the same feel of numbers of books available as you do in a bookstore.  

Reading needs to start as young as possible, but don’t be surprised if different children go at different paces. One of our sons had hardly ready anything except comic book Asterix the Gaul up to the time he hit his teens. What did he end up doing? Reading Law at Cambridge!  With a well stocked library just round the corner, we have no excuses for not reading to our children from a very early age. We have three children each two years apart and we always read to them (and eventually got them reading to us). Before they got to their teens, I think our greatest reading achievement was reading through two and a half books of the Lord of the Rings. I don’t know why we gave up there but I believe they have all finished it since. If you are a grandparent, grab every opportunity you can to read to the grandkids. Another thing about reading to the grandchildren is that you end up reading stuff you’d never have the courage to take out of the library and read otherwise.

Don’t let anyone tell you what you ought to read. By all means get book lists and try some out, but otherwise read what you enjoy and don’t let others make you feel guilty about what you read.  There are some books that critics rave about, but you may think are terrible. My reading of John Le Carre leaves me thinking, “this is all grey and tedious,” but that is just me  There are some traditional books that I find depressing. Dickens can be like that sometimes. Some books are just dark and I’m left thinking, why bother? I have certain favourite novels but i won’t tell you them because they probably won’t be yours. But to have favourites mean you have to take time to read books and we are so often conned into over busy lives (even when we are retired) that we are led to believe we just don’t have time to read. Not true!

But it’s the ‘feel of size’ I think where the Kindle experience falls down. OK, I know it is the generation speaking, but you cannot beat having a book in your hand with the feel of three hundred pages there and the sense, as you work through it, of ‘getting there’, getting nearer and nearer the end. Seeing page numbers on a screen is just not the same. Kindle books are OK for novels, biographies etc. but once you move towards the book with pictures, graphics etc., Kindle just utterly looses out. There’s nothing like flicking through the pages of a large book in your lap, with pictures on every page, and then pausing to browse the text when a particular picture catches the eye. Children’s books are best in print form where size and colour and pictures all help the young person develop their reading. It’s probably happened already and I just haven’t seen it, but the next generation Kindle has got to include colours and pictures and so on, if they want to develop beyond the bland black and white page and capture the ever growing market.

It’s amazing what you can find about reading with a simple Google search. Here are a few gems.

Agatha Christie (1890–1976) is the world’s best-selling fiction writer. She wrote 78 crime novels that sold more than 2 billion copies. Two billion!!!!!

German Johann Gutenberg, who invented movable type in 1440, printed his first book, a Latin Bible, in 1455. Books have been around for quite a while! The first book printed in English, in 1475, was The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, by William Caxton.  Did you know that apparently the first published book ever written on a typewriter was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain using a Remington in 1875?

Research suggests that regular reading is associated with a 35% reduction in the risk of dementia. Encourage all your aging friends to keep on reading, doing crosswords and Sudoku and so on.   We take so much for granted when it comes to books.  Here are some of the popular categories of books and stories in literature.

Fiction is any story that is made up. Non-fiction is factual.
An autobiography is the story of a person's life written or told by that person.
biography is the story of a person's life written or told by another person.
fable is a story that teaches a moral or a lesson. It often has animal characters.
Fantasy novels are often set in worlds much different from our own and usually include magic, sorcery and mythical creature.
folktale is a story that has been passed down, usually orally, within a culture. It may be based on superstition and feature supernatural characters. Folk tales include fairy tales, tall tales, and other stories passed down over generations.
legend is a story that has been handed down over generations and is believed to be based on history, though it typically mixes fact and fiction. The hero of a legend is usually a human.
myth is a traditional story that a particular culture or group once accepted as sacred and true. It may focus on a god or supernatural being and explain how something came to be, such as lightning or music or the world itself.
Science fiction stories examine how science and technology affect the world. The books often involve fantasy inventions that may be reality in the future.

And to finish off, some gem quotes:

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” 
― Groucho Marx

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! -- When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” 
― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

“You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” 
― Ray Bradbury

“Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.” 
― Francis Bacon

“When I get a little money, I buy books. If any is left, I buy food and clothes.” — Erasmus

“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” — Confucius  

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