It hasn’t gone unnoticed by this particular book addict that the producers of books out there have really stepped up to the plate lately. I suspect that this is due in no small part to the ebook revolution. I have a kindle – I am very fond of it. However it will never and could never replace actual books for me. I don’t even read that much on it really, although I find it enormously useful for when I am away from home. One of the things that is marvellous about this ebook revolution is that it seems to be encouraging people to read a lot of old books, particularly classics – all those titles which are out of copyright and so therefore available free.
Surely then, it is no coincidence that publishers are producing legions of sumptuous editions of these books that one could simply download for free. They aren’t silly are they? They know how to tempt us. We book addicts (and I am a fully paid up member of that particular group) are easily tempted into buying books which are physically beautiful. It is ridiculous isn’t it? I have a kindle; I could download at time I wish copies of whatever classic tale I might wish to read. The madness however doesn’t even stop there. I already have many many old Penguin and Oxford classics editions of these books. I bought them maybe twenty or twenty five years ago – I bought them to read, I read them (during my previous classics phase –which lasted a good number of years) and often kept them. However they are faded now, the spines slightly cracked, and I have been tempted away from my trusty old editions, and bought new pretty editions. In my defence I am only purchasing new editions of books I intend to re-read – and I like to think I have been doing my (very big) bit for the publishing industry in these difficult economic times. I feel rather sorry for my old editions, a bit guilty as if I am in some way betraying old friends ( yes that is ridiculous) – though I am certainly not just throwing them away – as a somewhat lapsed (but still very much signed up) bookcrosser I am able to pass on my old books to deserving causes. I recently gave away an old copy of Jane Eyre to a friend who decided she fancied re-reading it and didn’t have a copy. I like to think therefore that I am sharing my love of my favourite books, and my old faded copies get a new lease of life with someone else.
The words are the same, the stories as thrilling in whatever edition one reads them in, dusty old edition bought twenty years ago, kindle edition or beautiful clothbound hardback – yet for some reason that I can’t quite explain the reading pleasure is enhanced by reading these texts in shiny new beautiful editions. That suggests that reading is partly at least a physical experience – for some of us at least – I know I am not alone in buying these new gorgeous editions. I also received some for Christmas, they do after all make wonderful gifts so I am sure I wasn’t alone in that either.
During my month of re-reading in January I have been reading a lot of old classics, only most of them have been read in pretty new editions, some I bought particularly to read during my re-reading month, some were Christmas gifts. Joining the classics club a couple of months ago – re-ignited my old love of classics, they are the kinds of books which bear re-reading, and then there are those I am discovering for the first time. I don’t seem to be alone, I am seeing many other readers and bloggers talking about classic literature just lately – another sign I think of the increased popularity of classic books. Is this because of ebooks? Or is it the piles of glorious new editions that are tempting us all back to the Brontes, Jane Austen, Dickens and co? Or have classic books always remained popular – and am I only just noticing it now?
I am determined to carry on re-reading regularly as it has been such a joy – I am certainly not going to replace every classic book in my house with a new edition, though I can’t promise I won’t acquire a few more – they are just so pretty – and I am a sucker it seems for pretty new editions. I will also be reminding myself that the contents of the books are the same – that I don’t really need the new edition – oh but they are pretty.