I’m just back from a week-end away, including a book-signing at the Cribbs Causeway Waterstone’s (that’s me having just got set up at the table). It was very busy, with lots of people stopping to chat and many to buy (always good!).
One of the things I love about the Tilly series is that, because it ranges so widely over different topics, folks of all ages and descriptions are interested in it.
One minute I’m chatting to a middle-aged man who is a John Grisham fan about conspiracy theories; the next an eleven-year-old girl comes to my table, clutching Tilly to her chest with a dreamy look in her eyes. She’s seen the picture of Tia and Kama, two of the dragons in the tale and already feels the magic. I tell her she would make a perfect Tilly if the film is ever made and her eyes light up even more!
Sitting in Waterstone’s for a few hours is a joy on many levels, not least because it proves how many people still love (and buy) books. As a booklover myself, I’m happy to see it. With kindle sales sky-rocketing, there’s been a lot of doom and gloom in the media about “the end is nigh” for books. Seeing the steady stream of people pouring into the store on Sunday, all of them with that air of anticipation that accompanies a trip to buy a book, you wouldn’t think so.
I think books will survive and even thrive in the long run. There will always be that extra-special “something” about holding a physical book.
There’s the texture to begin with. I love the feel of a book in the fingers, especially those old leather tomes you find in libraries. One day I hope Tilly will be successful enough for someone to print a special edition, with leather covers and gold-edged pages – and perhaps a few ancient engravings/symbols on the front!
Tilly - her cover is already much-loved!
Then there’s the smell. All books smell slightly different, depending on the type of ink, paper and binding material that has been used. I still remember the smells of books that were my favourites when I was a child. It was part of the pleasure, sitting down and opening up the covers to be greeted by the scent of that particular story or picture-book.
Then of course there’s the big difference in turning a physical page to simply scrolling on down a screen. Separate neural networks are engaged and more feel-good reward chemicals are released into the brain as a result. Most of us have nodded off in bed with a good book still in our hands, comforted in some way by the physical object itself.
We seem to develop a personal relationship with books that screens simply don’t offer.
Not that I’m a Luddite on this. Kindle is fantastic in many ways, especially for those who can’t get out and about so easily, or for whom holding a book isn’t easy. And I’m sure Kindle will increase the amount of books being read all over the world, which has got to be a good thing.
It’s just that, being of a certain age I was brought up enjoying the book-in-the-hand and listening to the sounds of the words as my parents read to us at night. I loved to thumb through those old copies, especially the ones with faded pictures of their heroes and heroines. Who knew which way the story would twist and turn? Was the baddie really a baddie? Were any of the goodies baddies?! How would the main characters get out of the latest scrape they found themselves in? All these questions flooded through my mind as I sat with a book on my lap.
What that’s left me with is an excitement about books that I don’t (yet) get from Kindle. Walk into a bookstore and there they all are, lined up along the shelves like a vast treasure-trove that no matter how quickly you read, you know you could never get through in several lifetimes!
And that’s part of the fun. I have heaps of books in my bedroom. Some of them are being re-read for the umpteenth time, some of them I just dip into for bits of information and others are yet to be started. But I know that for all the reading I may do between now and the day when I shuffle off the mortal coil, there will still be millions, billions of books that I never see, touch or even hear about!
Books are more than a little like people. We fall in love with some, others make us laugh, some leave us cold, whilst others intrigue and fascinate us. All are made up of essentially the same “stuff” and yet each is unique. And no matter how many we bring into our lives, whether face to face or via the Internet, there are billions more whom we will not meet in quite the same way.
Of course, if we are like books, it begs the question: “Who is reading us?”
Perhaps we are more like characters in a story. Each of us walks through a new chapter every day, not knowing quite what is going to happen. We spend our time meeting other characters, who then become parts of our story just as we become parts of theirs. We make good choices and bad ones. We please some people and infuriate others!
As the pages of our particular story grow in number, so does the wealth and richness of our experience, until one day the final punctuation mark arrives and our character retires. But the story doesn’t end there.
At that point the writer who has penned our tale (along with those of all the others in the library of human history) takes a brief pause before picking up the quill, dipping it into the ink of life, and breathing inspiration into another character.
This new character will walk through the story of his or her life in much the same way as we have (whether on page or screen) and for all their uniqueness, they will be forever connected to each one of us, not just by the ink-marks on the page that tell their tale, but by the simple fact that he or she will be born from the same infinite imagination from which all life springs, just as you and I once were.
Whether we are like books or the characters inside them, perhaps the trick of enjoying life is to turn its pages with the same anticipation of pleasure as we do when we’re immersed in our favourite books, never knowing quite where the tale will lead us, but trusting that the process will be full of wonder and, of course, have a happy ending!
Til next time – best wishes,
With Simon Monfredi - Events Manager at Waterstones Cribbs Causeway