Friday, 25 November 2011

Books - books - books.

It was very fortunate that I had written last week's blog on the previous Sunday as otherwise I could well have missed a week. It was nothing very serious but the eyes were playing up a bit and when that happens I try to keep away from computers, televisions and (very sadly) my Kindle. As most of you know, reading books as such are no longer possible for me but the beauty of the Kindle is that I can adjust the type size so that I can read it. Thus I am now an ebook reader but what are ebooks doing to the world of proper books? To answer that we need to know whether ebooks are bought instead of or in addition to paper books. If it means that more people are reading then ebooks are a good thing but if they are another nail in the coffin of the book shops then clearly that is not. From the little research I have been able to make, I am reasonably sure that ebooks are, on balance, a good thing for writers and for everyone else involved in the production of reading matter. Book shops closing is a different matter and there are, I think, two main reasons. The first is that most bookshops are in places where there are less people: out of town shopping supermarkets and so on mean less people in high streets and that creates a problem shared by many small retail shops, not just book shops. The second is that the power of large retailers (supermarkets and on-line) enables them to command discounts which can result in them being able to sell at prices less than most bookshops have to pay their wholesalers. Again this is not just a problem for those selling books. Thanks to the buying power of these huge chains, dairy farmers also suffer from narrowing profit margins and many are going out of business as a result. I am sure there are many other examples. It is always sad when things change and people get hurt but I am not sure you can point the finger of blame at anyone: change happens - sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.

We all need cheering up at this point and since there are no photographs that can illustrate today's blog, I have made a random choice of some of the pictures I have taken of birds over the years.

I digress from where I had meant to go which was to say that as result there really is nothing to report and that is not good news when trying to write a blog. Luckily today (Thursday) the eyes are much better so at least I can offer a few thoughts.

From the back of our garden look over the fields to the east and there, almost hidden by trees, you can see the gable end of a cottage in which live David and Debbie Hurst along with two toddlers - both boys - and a couple of dogs. David is a journalist, a very hands-on father and, thanks to getting up early in the morning  - and I really do mean early - also finds time to write novels. These are pretty grisly crime stories and it would be wrong to suggest that people who like reading Marcia's books would enjoy David's: they almost certainly wouldn't. However, David's journalism includes articles about a wide variety of people including authors and he has been commissioned to write two about Marcia: one for Women' Own and one for a magazine in Dubai. For the latter he asked both of us to name our 'three favourite authors'.

This has proved to be an impossible task. For a start we both read books from many genre. My range includes political theory, detective novels, anthropology, war at sea (factual and fictional),  genetics, spy thrillers (from Buchan to Robert Ryan) and so on. Marcia's is even wider as it includes poetry (which I can rarely understand) and many more novelists than I read. So, in the end, we offered him a list of the three last books we had read.

Mine: Super Cooperators by Martin Nowak and Roger Highfield; Early One Morning by Robert Ryan and The Flamingo's Smile by Stephen Jay Gould. Marcia's: At the Source by the poet Gillian Clarke; Learning to Dance by Michael Mayne and Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.