Thursday, 4 December 2014

A real book for Christmas?

Here I am in a South African bookshop with a copy of The Housemaid's Daughter.

Are we still giving books as presents? Or have so many of us moved on to e-readers that the physical book is threatened with extinction?

There's no doubt that e-readers are extremely convenient, especially when we travel. I remember hauling suitcases groaning with books in the past, but now I can download my reading list for a holiday in no time, and it only weighs an iPad's worth...

But I must confess that I still love a physical book. There's something about turning pages, about flipping back to a part that you liked, even about turning down the corner of a page (sorry!) to mark a particular spot. A book in the hand conveys so much more than its constituent pages.

Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 1400s - but did you know that he wasn't the first to do so? The Chinese developed the technology in about 1040, then passed it on to the Koreans. They produced the first metal "movable type" printing in 1234. Once printing became established, the growth was phenomenal. Fifty years after Gutenberg's breakthrough in Europe, printing presses across the continent had already produced some 20 million books.

Let's keep the modern presses rolling!

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