Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The home straight

A week of snow and some great walking, even if the writing has been a bit of a struggle.

We are nearly into February and in a way this is my first real blog of the year. I have already fallen behind with my novel. The end is tantalisingly close but I’m struggling to finish the draft. There’s a nagging little demon that tells me it’s no good and whilst it remains unfinished I’ve got a good excuse not to show it to anyone. If I have a new year’s resolution it has to be to learn to ignore the little voice of doom in my head and finish the damn thing for good or ill.

I have however been doing a lot of reading. In our house books usually feature heavily amongst the gifts at Christmas and this year was no exception. All of them physical books of course, ebooks don’t quite cut it as a present. You can’t wrap them and leave them under the tree.

I love books, not just the words inside but as objects in their own right. One of my most treasured possessions is a first edition copy of Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens, given to me for a landmark birthday. Originally published in 1865 by Chapman and Hall in two volumes and later rebound in one. Though not, alas, signed by the author it does form a tangible link to the past that an ebook can’t.

Traditional book or ebook? Both have their place.
That’s not to say, that I don’t like ebooks. I have the complete works of Charles Dickens on my Kindle along with all the other books accumulating there, including a few that I’ve already forgotten about. They weigh nothing and as long as I remember to keep it charged I can get a quick reading fix at any time just be dipping in my handbag.

It has other uses too. I keep a copy of my novel on it. I can read out extracts from it when I’m at my writing group. I can sit down, as I did recently, and read the whole thing through. The formatting is a bit basic but because it looks like a ‘real’ book, you can get a good feel of what is wrong and what is right with it.

The Kindle has also been useful for research. Since my novel is set in the nineteenth century, I’m much indebted to Project Gutenberg. Volunteers all around the world are digitising out-of-copyright books for free download from the Project Gutenberg website and I’ve been able access many strange and obscure books that would have otherwise been difficult to get hold of.

At home the old yellowing paperbacks are gradually being replaced on the one hand by smart new hardback editions or by the more ephemeral ebook.

For me physical books and ebooks are not an either or. Both have their place.


  1. I love my Kindle, but also have many paperbacks and a few special hardbacks stashed.

    The Kindle has its place, but for the time being I think printed books still have their place in society too. Maybe with new generations of readers things will alter. Who knows?

  2. So true. Reading is an integral part of writing, the more we do the better whatever the method of delivery. As writers we're lucky to have so much technology at our disposal but it doesn't necessarily make us better writers. Sadly we still have to work at it.