It’s a sunny day here with little chance of rain (for a change!) so I decided to hang some washing outside. In order to do that I had to put the book I was reading down, and when I did that it struck me that some people would not be happy about how I left the book. For clarity I left it like this, upright and open against the back of the sofa.
The actual book itself is not important, it just happens to be what I was reading at the time. What is important is that it reminded me of the conversations, comments and criticisms that I’ve seen many times regarding how people treat their books. I will be upfront now and say I fold page corners, I don’t always use bookmarks, I bend spines when necessary and am not bothered if my books do not look pristine when I’ve finished reading them.
I read books because I love reading, I love the stories and the escapism I get from reading. As well as printed books I also have a kindle I use regularly and, if I have long drives to make, I listen to audiobooks. The book format doesn’t bother me, one is not better than the other, it’s the writing that is important, the words the authors has used to create a story that transports me through time (forward or back), to another planet, to a different city, into the head of a serial killer or the detective hunting them. THIS is why I read, so I can experience these things.
This copy of Tom Jones is one of my most precious books. I bought it in 1997 after watching the TV adaptation. It is precious to me because of the story but also because I did some new and scary things in the years that followed the purchase and this book came with me on my travels. It was my constant companion, something familiar in strange places. It was originally published in 1749 and while there may be a few original copies still in existence the fact is many have long since gone but the story remains because it is republished again and again. And this is my point. The stories survive because they exist in the words used not because people have been meticulous about how they treat their books.
I know people are entitled to their opinions and I know many will not agree with me or will feel sorry for my copy of Tom Jones because it is a bit battered and well-worn but that doesn’t mean that people should be subjected to nasty comments or made to feel less of a book lover because they fold page corners or use an e-reader or listen to books. I’ve said my book is precious to me and it is, but if I lost it in a fire or something I would replace it with a new copy. The memories I have with it would still exist because the words in the book still exist, they wouldn’t disappear just because that copy of the book no longer existed.
Surely those who describe themselves as book lovers should be celebrating the actual stories, not berating people for how they treat their books or what formats they use? As book readers should we not be more tolerant of others given that we all all have a common interest – books – regardless of how that interest is accessed?