Monday, 11 June 2012

Book Review - It's a Book by Lane Smith.

I love the internet and how much it enables me to do stuff. I really like websites and blogs, and emails are very useful. I also appreciate how much information I can find out quickly from search engines. And I like computers in general. 

But e-readers. I struggle with them. As an appreciator of printed things all my life, I have much preferred holding a real book, turning real pages, looking with my own eyes at a real piece of paper in front of me. That's my preference, and a choice I am free to make, while books are still printed as well as downloaded. But I thought that my precious picture books would escape modern technology, as they rely on colour and are usually a much wider format than most novels. Hence, I remained unthreatened by e-books til I looked up a picture book on Amazon the other day and found that as well as being listed as a Hardback and a Paperback, to my dismay, a Kindle edition is also available. 

It's not that e-books are evil. On the contrary, their many plus points have actually encouraged my husband to read and finish scores of books every year, where he used to struggle to focus on them. I just worry about what children of the future will miss out on. Not a life or death situation. But a lack of tactile textures, a lack of beatiful bindings and almost edible covers, with lustred, matt or glossy finishes. The sound of a page turning late at night when all else is quiet, the sound of paper. The sound of a book firmly, satisfyingly, closing when you reach its end.

I email people a lot. It's easy, it's quick, and it's free. Oh and it's instant. But I also love post. I love waiting, and tearing things open. I love stamps, and envelopes and postal marks. I love handwriting.  There is a place for both. I hope this will always be true, and I hope there will always be a place in the world for a book to hold. 

I discovered this particular book at the library (my favourite part of my job is opening the delivery crates, which among the returned books and the books that have come from other libraries by request, contain a few treasures - new and unread books yet to be opened, yet to be covered in jam or chewed by a toddler.) It's a Book by Lane Smith is just brilliant. It is completely just on its own with no other books like it. There is one simple and repeated message within it; the nature of a printed text compared with technological alternatives. The joys of a real book, explained by an increasingly frustrated gorilla to a donkey who only comprehends things with a screen and buttons. 

How do I scroll down? I don't, I turn the page. It's a book

The text is short and understated yet witty and engaging. Lane Smith's drawings leave a lot to the imagination, with no extraneous details but oodles of personality and expression in each of the characters she's drawn so expertly. The muted colours give a backdrop that echoes the softness and timelessness of books in contrast to the saturated colours and bright lights of modern multimedia devices. It's hilarious, smart, and beautiful; a brilliant representative of books, championing the more traditinal reading method without any negativity towards technology. If you can find a copy in your local library, borrow it or order it in. But every bookshelf really deserves its own copy, to delight anyone that picks it up and turns the first page. You'll be hooked 'til the last.

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