John Arnold: Change is inevitable but messing with books is a step too far for me

There’s nothing like the feel of a book in your hands, says John Arnold, an avid reader.
John Arnold: Change is inevitable but messing with books is a step too far for me

The feel of an actual book in your hands is magical, says John Arnold. Picture: Stock

GROWING up, if I heard the word kindle it meant just one thing. If you were told to kindle the fire it basically meant to get the fire ready for lighting. Small sticks, cipins we called them, were always in plentiful supply on a farm and if they were dry, sure they’d be better than any firelighters.

We used twist old newspapers into knots and maybe add a small bit of goose grease and with the kindling on top you’d have a blazing fire in minutes.

That was then but how things have changed - nowadays the word Kindle has a completely different meaning and refers to the computer yoke appy thing whereby one can read a book that you haven’t got with you!

‘Twas about three years ago on a train journey from Dublin that I first encountered this Kindle phenomenon. 

Initially I thought that a share of people had poor eyesight like me and were using over-size or king size mobile phones.

Quickly I realised these personages were, in fact, reading books on their ‘tablets’ - again in my youth you took these with a glass of water!

Now, I have been reliably informed that water and these new-fangled tablets don’t mix very well at all actually. Anyhow, these kindle books, or ‘kinda books’ as I call them, have become very popular.

The extent and magnitude of phones and apps and computers continues to amaze me and in fairness I’m not going to condemn such modern technology. Truly it’s changing at a galloping rate -what was termed ‘modern’ five years ago is now deemed only suitable for antique shops!

Not having a technical or electrical leaning most of the modern media sources are just beyond me and that’s fine and I accept that such change is inevitable. Books to me however are a step too far.

Of course it’s great to have the complete works of Shakespeare, Beckett, Kavanagh, Heaney and Shaw available in or on a little device no bigger than half a cornflakes box. Remember the famous line about the village schoolmaster ‘ And still they gazed and still the wonder grew, how one small head could carry all he knew’, well I’m a bit like that when I look at computers and laptops and the like.

For me though the feel of the actual book in my hand is magic. Then again I’m a kind of voracious reader. If I get a book I like or that I’ve been trying to obtain for ages I tend to read it in a day or two or a day and a night -depending on the time of the year and how busy things are down on the farm. Reading say 50 or 60 pages every second night or suchlike is not my idea of ‘real reading’.

Only once ever did I go on a foreign holiday in the month of January. Our destination was glorious for the first month of the year – a bit like a normal June here. Sartorial elegance wouldn’t be one of my most endearing traits which basically means I’ve absolutely no fashion sense whatsoever. Anyway I always think when you’re on holidays comfort rather than high fashion is the key thing in daily clothes wear. So in my 25kg baggage allowance on that never to be forgotten trip I had the briefest of briefs and little else except ten books. Oh yes what a pleasure it was for those sun-kissed days when neither kindle or kindling was needed! I’d got the books for Christmas and lads what it bliss it was at half seven in the morning on a warm balcony in January to be able to indulge my passion for reading.

I do love the feel of the book in my hands and the smell of a new book is special too - fresh off the press as they say. 

Of course dear reader you may say ‘what if the book is no good- if it’s boring then if you have kindle it’s like a virtual library with endless choice’, a fair enough point but not a convincing argument for me to abandon actual for virtual books.

If I’m at home of a night with nothing to do - I recall such an evening in December 2019, well I just love perusing the books on the shelves and reading or reading something whilst sitting by a roaring fire. Such simple pleasures cannot be bought, sold, bartered or even imagined.

The popularity of kindle and of social media in general of course begs the question ‘Have newspapers any future at all?’. In five or 25 years will newspapers be but museum items or exhibits in county and city libraries? On a worldwide scale in the modern world an ever-increasing number of people obtain their ‘news feed’ from hand held devices. With the rush of a hectic lifestyle many people say they simply haven’t the time to sit down and read a paper and that the ‘headlines’ on their device or app is enough to sate their news appetite.

Long ago we were told that newspapers never lied. How often to settle an argument of fact or figure or a particular date a member of the ‘company’ would stand up and say ‘Will ye whist, sure didn’t I see it on the paper’ and that usually settled the argument. Just all that glitters isn’t gold, the printed word isn’t always sacrosanct, but I still would believe more I read in newspapers than most of the so-called and correctly called ‘fake news’ emanating from here there and everywhere.

We saw during the Trump Presidency in America how news can be manipulated and lies converted into ‘pure truth’ and what’s both frightening and disturbing is the fact that millions of people are prepared to believe absolute drivel if it suits their purpose - political, religious or otherwise. Freedom of conscience is a great thing thus anyone can believe anything they want to, but in the midst all this vast morass of what passes for news I feel newspapers will still have a role in the future. Of course papers and those that run them and own them are not slow to see change coming and that’s why now have ‘online ‘ editions of most publications. One might think it’s a case of ‘if we cant beat them, join ‘em’ - not exactly but an example of pragmatism where modern technology has combined with proud traditions to keep the news to the fore.

When the kindle arrived on the scene, perhaps a decade, ago the harbingers of doom and gloom were saying that the end was nigh for books. Yet year after year we see more and more books being written, published, printed and most importantly read. Newspapers too have had to change and adapt to the new reality of a technology driven media. Of course we cannot be certain what the future holds but then when the Evening Echo became simply The Echo maybe ‘twas a ‘leap of faith’ but it worked so readers keep on reading and keep the kindling for the grate!

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