I used to go to the Oxfam store near Holborn at least once a week to browse the well-stocked bookshelves. Perhaps given its proximity to LSE and Kings College, there were quite a lot of literary classics and heady academic tomes tucked among the trashy romance novels here. Every time I entered, I could hardly resist buying a book or two, despite knowing how foolish it was to buy books that I definitely wasn’t going to bring back home. But the books were a steal at £2-5, so I figured it was worth it even if I gave the books away later.
I ended up with a tall stack of used books on the windowsill. I’d curl up by the window with a cup of tea and crack one open; or I’d haul it on one of my weekend trips to read on planes and trains. There was something exciting to me about opening the well-worn binding and reading the pages someone had read before. While engrossed in a John le Carré novel, I wondered whether the previous reader had been as gripped by the claustrophobia of Cold War espionage. It may seem silly, but I was honestly thankful to the book donors for granting me access to a fictional world by passing the book on. Which also made it easier for me to give the books away when I was done.
I must be all the more nostalgic right now because I’m heading back to Europe on Wednesday. I’m currently pre-loading my Kindle with reading for the flight, but I’m finding it hard to reconcile my old-soul love of literature as a shared experience with this new digital form…. especially given the price tag. I have to pay $9.99 for The Spy Who Came in from the Cold? To get it downloaded onto my Kindle via something Amazon calls… Whispernet??
The name, I’m not such a fan of. It underscores the problem I have with the Kindle to begin with, which is that the digital reading experience feels… wispy. Ethereal. The words disintegrate every time you turn the page, as if they were never there. It’s odd; unnerving, almost.
Ah, well. Welcome to the 21st Century! This is how we do. Convenience trumps all: I have five e-books locked and loaded on this slim slice of a device, and I don’t need to worry about dumping cargo on the return trip.
Paris, Italy, Spain–here I come! This blog will be quiet for a while, but you can bet there will be updates when I’m back.