I fucking love books. I did my degree in them, I want to write one, I like to smell them.
But physical books cost money and also, when you have more than about five, are extremely heavy and inconvenient to carry up and down the country. So I got a Kobo e-reader. Plenty of book snobs will now look down on me. Fuck them. I just downloaded 50 books, for free. Yes, I’m stealing books. It’s the only way. The average novel takes me only a day or two to finish. Retailing at £8 each (assuming I only read paperbacks), it would cost me £1460 to keep in books for a year. Although that does assume I read one book every two days for the whole time, with no breaks for adventures in the real world. Still, even one book per week would be £416. My only income is disability benefits, (ESA, employment and support allowance) so that is still pretty hefty.
I can afford second hand books. And I do buy them. I think the secondhand bookshop is my favourite retail experience. I could spend weeks in a single store, especially those beautiful, overstocked, crooked little shops that take up a whole shop and the house above it, and are filled with hidden rooms and corners all stacked to the ceiling with books. However, I don’t think any of the money they make (in the unlikely event of them turning a profit) goes to the authors. Same with cheap secondhand, or even new, books on Amazon. Amazon is an evil company which contributes nothing but misery along with its easy access to consumer goods. I don’t think my occasional purchases there are really helping the publishing industry either.
Shit, I didn’t think this post was going to end up as such an ethical indictment against me. I’m destroying the thing I love because I can’t help but steal. Although you can’t say I haven’t accrued a pretty impressive book collection over my life.
This is the bookshelf in my old bedroom at my parents’ house. There are also a few books in boxes, in the attic, under my desk… Indeed, I may be something of a book hoarder. It causes me great pain to part with a book. And I get deeply attached to specific books. That Naked Lunch in the middle of the top shelf? That’s been with me for a good few years now. It’s respectably battered and interestingly stained. It still smells faintly of damp and cigarettes, the scent of paper overlaid with the scent of an old flat, a flat we’ll never see again. I love that book. Somehow, by accident, I got another, newer, shinier copy of Naked Lunch. It’s in a storage crate somewhere because I never got around to selling it or giving it away. I want to get rid of it. It feels disloyal, traitorous, waiting in the wings to replace my faithful old copy with a shiny new version. The new book stays in the box so I don’t have to look at it.
I come from a bookish family. I don’t feel at home in houses without bookshelves. But now, I have no bookshelf. Or at least, I have a tiny cubbyhole on the boat, with about four books along with leaflets and paperwork. It’s not enough books, so I cling to my Kobo and fill it with literature. The wonders of technology, eh? I’ve got enough books to last me at least a year, all stored in the space of the slimmest little paperback. It might leave the reading experience strangely transient, divorced from all physical permanence, but at least I’m reading. I’m reading so, so much, and I love it.