I’ve just found my favourite magazine, Music & Literature, and splurged on a one year digital subscription (£20). I don’t usually read a lot of literature online. I used to read poetry online, maybe a flash fiction, but nothing too long. Now I am using my Kindle, more and more. Although I still have plenty of paper books on my to-read shelf.
I’ve started thinking more and more about when to order the paper book and when to order the digital book. In most cases, it seems, I am trying to order the paper books only when the book itself is both a beautiful object and I love the writing. Although sometimes I have ordered an ugly novel from Faber & Faber (Victor Pelevin), but I didn’t know the book was ugly before I ordered it.
Some books that meet both form and content include: Fitzcarraldo Editions, Boiler House Press, Archipelago Books, Twisted Spoon Press, Dostoyevsky Wannabe, Influx Press, Galley Beggar, Open Pen. It is not only about the paper, but good paper is certainly a consideration. It is about the design. The texture. The feel of the book. I prefer thick pages. Minimalist design. Sometimes the book is unavailable in digital form and the print form is nothing special. This is a dilemma. An ugly book, but only on rare occasions.
It didn’t used to be this way. I collected paperbacks in the 80s and 90s. Cheap mass paperbacks. The mass paperback was democratic, more folks could afford it. A reading revolution. But now we have digital, usually cheaper, so the print form has to be something special. There are some exceptions. The paperbacks of NYRB Classics, sometimes Vintage/Penguin. A few others.
I am also thinking of music. Buying a record versus streaming/mp3 etc. It has to be something special for me to buy the record (well records are usually more expensive than books for one thing). Also, I don’t like clutter. Or owning too much. Books are the exception. I have less than 50 records.
So I’ve taken the plunge. My first digital magazine subscription. I spent a few days reading the free content from the magazine and realized it doesn’t get any better. So many international artists, often in translation, unavailable anywhere else. The latest issue features translations of Peter Bichsel (some by Lydia Davis). I love everything Lydia Davis. Each issue features three artists. There is an issue with Mary Ruefle. Another one with Éric Chevillard. I just started reading Éric Chevillard last week, his Palafox, on my Kindle. He is becoming a favourite. I am going to order his Prehistoric Times, from Archipelago Books. Thick pages.
I am reading more and more novels on my Kindle. My coursebooks for high school classes are now digital. I am making more and more moves towards the digital. I still love a beautiful print book, but I’ve become more selective. Poetry books on the Kindle? No. Not unless they are prose poems.
Disadvantages of Kindle: You cannot go back and forth flipping through pages and opening at random. You cannot look at the cover on your bookshelf and remember your reading experience. So that’s the other reason for the print book. If I absolutely love a book I’ve read on the Kindle, I usually also purchase it for the bookshelf. This has been the case with Jeanette Winterson (the paperbacks are nothing special, but I love her novels). Also Beckett somehow doesn’t feel the same on a Kindle. Maybe, over time, I will become more and more used to digital reading. Although print reading has imprinted many strong impressions from an early age. For now, and always, I’ll stay hybrid. In more ways than one.