It is World Book Day, not in Denmark, in Britain. But I am more than happy to celebrate books every day of the year if I could no matter in what country.
So books huh? Pages of words that opens up worlds that are scary or delightful, fantastic or dreary. They are all an escape from reality even when they resemble it quite well.
It has never mattered to me in what format a book is in. Hardback – Paperback – E-book. I don’t care. I would read books if they were printed on toilet paper. It is the words that make up the story that counts (*), and not the package that contain them. But at the same time, as self-contradictory it might seem, I love owning them. Especially when when I was younger I loved owning those packages, lining them up on my shelves and fiddling with how they were ordered. Author vs Title? Hardback vs Paperback. Tallest books first or last? Of all my stuff I had as a teenager I was most proud of my books.
Most of the time I borrowed my books at the library, only filling my stacks temporarily (**). It wasn’t very satisfactory handing them back, I wanted them on my shelf forever, to pull back down to re-read if they were good enough. But books are expensive in Denmark. A new book, Danish or translated, in hardback will easily cost around 300 kroner (equals to $40-50). There’s no way I can feed my addiction at that price. Not when I was a student and not now, when I work my butt off to pay the mortgage and loans and what have you. When I was younger I resorted to mail order book deals, where I would get 1-2-3 books for free against having to buy at least one or two over the span of a year, at full price. I got some great books that way, but I always forgot to cancel the monthly book and thus ended up with books I either couldn’t pay or didn’t want. So that wasn’t a very viable way to gather books.
Then I moved to Greece for a year and discovered english language paperbacks. There was this small shop filled with books priced so I could afford to buy one every week and still have money enough left over to go to the movies once or twice a week. The shop was in a small back alley close to the marina in Piraeus, and whenever I had the time I would walk to the shop, buy a book and then go sit on the low white wall that edged the marina reading for an hour or two.(***).
Once home I started scouring our local bookshops for imported paperbacks which were more affordable at 100-120 kroner (which is $20 at the current rates). But that was not enough either, the selection was limited to say the least, booksellers didn’t want to import books they weren’t sure would sell and I could never really fully satisfy my need to browse for new authors or new books by beloved authors.
Thankfully the internet happened, Amazon happened. Books priced at £5+, a little bit of p&p on top and new books were in my possession.
The Kindle appeared. Oh how I wanted one. Imagine having your entire library with you at all times. Imagine buying a book and within seconds it was virtually in your hands. No hellish two week wait. Instant gratification! HEAVEN!
5 years ago when I finally had the money to buy an e-reader I couldn’t get the Kindle. But I got a Sony Reader instead, which served me well for close to three years before the world of E-books started go a little weird! I usually bought my books on Waterstones.co.uk or whsmith.co.uk. Until they decided they didn’t want to to sell to me because I was a few hundred miles across the wrong sea.
Buying books before e-books were troublesome because of price, lack of choice or time of delivery, now it was difficult because of reasons still not really clear to me. The internet was depriving me of my english language books. but for the love of god, why? Nobody has really explained this to me in a way that I can accept as reasonable. A book is a book (in my opinion) whether it is made of paper or small pixels.
For awhile I actually considered downloading and reading pirated books, threatening to undermine everything I hold true as a reader and a wanna-be writer. If I don’t pay for the book, the authors I love won’t get paid. Its another discussion, but at desperate times I seriously considered it. If the booksellers didn’t want to sell to me why should I care if I stole from them. I never got around to it because I am too conscientious. and I am glad because…
…then my beloved Kindle finally made it to Europe. For what equals 3-4 new danish hardbacks I bought a Kindle and now have the whole Amazon to choose from. I have never bought as many books as I do now. I am almost back to the one book a week deal. And I love it.I love reading on the e-reader (****), I love that my hands/wrists don’t get tired holding a heavy book upright while lying in the sofa. I love that I can use the app on my phone to read in the dark of the bedroom, or in the car when we are driving home at night. I love my virtual library almost as much as I love my physical one, dusty and disorganized as it is.
So Happy World Book Day out there. I hope you enjoy them in whatever shape or format they have.
* And the worst thing in my world was when I turned the first few pages and read the legal mumbo jumbo written there, seeing the most hated word. Abridged. That word would wreck the whole reading experience. How could they? How could they take a book and then cut things out of it? Words were missing meaning beautiful parts of the story were missing. For years I always scanned the first pages before buying a book, dreading the eventual find of that word.
,** or sometimes for a long time, I could have bought many a book with the money I have over the years paid to the library in late delivery fees.
*** Needless to say I had to pay extra to get all my luggage home with me when I flew back.
**** I also love the added value of the dictionary in the Kindle. So much so I the other day when reading a physical book actually tapped a word to get the definition. Thank god reading is not a team sport or I would have been disqualified.