Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Book Sniffing

The postman knocks - it's a hardback, too big to go through the door, newly printed from Princeton University Press; navy blue cloth and yellow ribbon at the spine. Someone has taken their time over this. The front and back papers have a map. Inside are close to 500 large pages of closely-written text. Someone's life is in there. I think of all the hours Christopher I Beckwith must have spent in libraries and with old documents in order to write this book - the travelling and the translating, the transcribing and editing. Maybe he has interviewed experts and spent days wondering around museums and archeological digs. Maybe he has spent nights on his own at his desk when everyone else was outside, watching television, or just simply getting on with the business of living.

I bring it up to my face and sniff. It's all for this. A new hardback book. The smell of ink and new paper. It is such a luxury and such a pleasure to own it. I know an ebook is useful, convenient and has almost everything that this book has in my hands - but it hasn't got this weight, this smell, this presence. Just as writing by hand is a different experience from typing, so, I believe, that reading from a book (as opposed to the screen) is a different experience too.

I thought maybe I had been converted to digital - but just at this moment I know I am not.


Blogger jem said...

Hallelujah! We'll keep books in print with attitudes like that Clare. I love the weight too, it feels like the weight of the words themselves. And the sound of the pages turning, and even that slight risk of a paper cut on those sharp pages! Happy reading!

Wed May 13, 12:32:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes, of course, the sound too - all part of the essentials. Very true, Jem.

Wed May 13, 12:56:00 pm  
Blogger Jud said...

Let us not forget the variety of fonts and such, that can add such character to a book, and the wonderful misprints than can make a first edition so valuable and such fun.

Can an author inscribe a copy to you on the frontispiece of an e-book?

Can you leave a note to a friend or a loved on the volume of the ebook you give them for a birthday? Surely you jest.

I am a fan of ebooks for certain things - but not all things.

I may have to go to the used book shop around the corner and sniff the stacks at lunch.

Wed May 13, 03:55:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Ah, yes Jud - all excellent points! Ebooks stand no chance.

Wed May 13, 09:50:00 pm  
Anonymous Hannah said...

I still go for the old books. I love reading :-) e-books I'm not really into it.

Thu May 14, 08:43:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Heh. We ought to form our own little club, Hannah!

Fri May 15, 07:30:00 am  

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