Sunday, 4 March 2012

Keeping it Real

I've been giving a lot of thought to the kindle versus book debate and I think - though I reserve the right to change my mind at a later date - that I have reached a conclusion. You see, I can see that there are lots of good reasons for the kindle - portability, instant availability of titles and not least that you can whack up the type size which, as an optically-challenged older person, is obviously a huge bonus. But I think it is important to keep things real and that means buying actual books.

Curiously, it wasn't thinking about books that made me come to this conclusion. It was actually thinking about records, the demise of the record store and particularly, about the disappearance of the album cover. Hundreds of years ago, shortly after dinosaurs stopped walking the earth, when I was growing up, buying your first album and the subsequent ones that made up your collection and defined your street credibility amongst your peers was such a big thing. You went to a record store and looked at the covers, and the whole choosing thing was an event. An album purchase was something you could hold in your hand. 

And here we are now with books and bookshops. It is a small, but real pleasure to browse in a bookshop. To look at the book covers, see the illustration on the front, read the comments from the critics and a summary of the story and the feel and size of the book is still important. Do you buy a book in hardback because it's a book you'll treasure - or more often in my case, because I simply can't wait for the paperback to come out? 

Anyway, the more I think about it, the more that I worry that we may live our lives watching things on a screen. Yes, I know, I'm writing my blog on a computer and winging it into the ether but I like seeing things for real because when it is for real it becomes something which addresses more than one sense. Like the atmosphere at any kind of live sporting event which is vastly superior to the brilliant view that watching it on the television gives you - even with a very knowledgeable commentary, although frequently I shout as much at the television as I do from the stands. But there is nothing like being there. 

Live music is the same. You might be squashed up in an arena surrounded by strangers but the sound and the craic that you get from being there is unforgettable. I can remember every band I've ever seen from sitting in the second row at the Coventry Theatre for David Bowie on his Aladdin Sane tour in my mid-teens with my friend Adrian to the Christmas Lindisfarne concerts at Leeds Uni, every one of the times we have seen Phil Collins (which is a lot because he is a big favourite of my beloved's) and some rather more up to date than that. 

The theatre and the cinema are the same. I would always rather go and see a film on the big screen for which films are rightly made, rather than wait for it to appear on the rather smaller screen in the comfort of our sitting room. I have just seen The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which is set in India and the colours and sounds had such intensity that you cannot possibly feel in your own home. A few weeks ago I took my mother to see the absolute god of comedy, James Cordon in One Man, Two Guvnors in the West End. We laughed almost till we cried and, as they say, you had to be there.

So of course you can buy everything through the internet, make all your choices through the screen - computer, television and so on. But there is nothing like feeling, tasting, touching and using all your senses to make your choices. I'm for keeping it real. Yes, definitely.

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