Bed time. I wanted something to read. Something with a particular flavour. Something to squint at until my eyelids drooped. I scanned my bookshelves and saw a volume I hadn’t picked up for quite some time: a hard cover copy of The Quiet Woman by Christopher Priest.
I took the book from the shelf, glanced at the blurb on the inside and decided that the novel fit the bill. I slipped off the dust jacket and put it on the shelf until the book’s return (dust jackets get crumpled and creased and slide off, so I always remove them from hard cover books when I’m reading them). I went upstairs, book and bourbon in hand.
I got into bed, took a sip of my drink and started to read. As I did so something struck me about this book – it is without doubt a beautiful object. The materials used are superb: the dark blue board and card, the textured, creamy paper. The print quality and construction are excellent. There’s even a blue ribbon bookmark. The paper has that lovely woody scent, the book has weight, the pages have a crisp, dry texture and make a gentle sound as I turn them. The book is signed by the author, and someone has written the price of £10 in pencil in the corner of a couple of pages (probably Rog Peyton, from whom I’m sure I bought this book at a convention).
I’m not going to bemoan the decline of dead tree books. Like the music industry, publishing is going digital. Technology allows people to download books to a multitude of devices to read wherever they wish. They don’t even have to remember what page they were on. I’m no Luddite, and anything that keeps people reading has got to be a good thing. But on balance, when I’m in bed with my wife and my bourbon, I’ll always prefer dead trees.