A book is a book not a machine, says Beth, one of the winners of The Guardian’s young critics’ awards.
A book has a cover made of paper or cardboard full of pages, whether they be of photos, stories, diary entries or letters from a loved one collected over the years.
Books are like humans: each one is unique, they all have their own story to tell. They need a bookshelf just as we need a house. They can be ripped or torn just as we can break a bone. They can become famous like us. They are born and grow old like us.
A book is something that is read then laughed or cried about, then stored on a shelf until years later. Then it is taken out to be dusted and exclaimed about as it brings back memories of all the thousands of times you read it as a child. Perhaps it was under the covers with a torch praying your parents wouldn’t see the light or out in the garden on a summer’s day using the book to shield your eyes from the sun, flicking its pages beneath your nose to get that familiar “booky” smell.
Books can be made personal; bent, folded, marked by grubby hands. They can be doodled in and signed by their author at a book shop making a great day out.
Books like note pads, scrap books and photo albums can be used to store information. Books like newspapers and history books can be used to spread news or knowledge. A diary can be a companion through the tough times; a friend you can tell everything to in utter confidence. They are a way of getting it out of your system. They will listen for hours to your joys and moans and although they can not comfort you or laugh with you, you feel they understand. (Take Anne Frank for an example).
Books are things to be enjoyed or hated and shared among friends when you have loved them. They are things to be passed down in the family, not replaced when the latest model comes out (like a Kindle).
Books document history and memories. They have been here for centuries, as things to pick up in our leisure time – they help us to spend it pleasurably and then remind us of pleasures past. Hopefully they will be here for many more.
So, as I stare down at this device in my hands, my heart does not leap for joy as some people’s might at the thought of all that extra space in my suitcase and bookshelves, or money I will save. I do not marvel at its thinness and hardiness – that I no longer have to worry about rips. I do not enjoy being able to enter any “bookshop” and purchase any “book” at any time from the comfort of my own home.
No! Instead, when I look at the Kindle, I see only distant memories of many an hour in the book shop down the road, running my hands over shelves, selecting novel after novel. Then the shop closes.
The Kindle screen fizzes when, in a sad bit, a tear drops on to it. A book would absorb my tears like a human absorbing sadness, but this is a machine, rejecting my human emotions. We would never replace the human race with robots, so why do it with books?
Do you agree with Beth, or is your Kindle your new best friend?
Results of The Guardian’s poll: