Living by the book

Private Property South Africa
Shaun Wewege

Bill Hicks is undoubtedly the stand up comedian whose work I admire most. One of my favourite routines of his, dubbed “waffle house waitress”, tells of a waitress who doesn’t understand why people would want to read. But before you click on this link, please bear in mind that the clip contains bad language and, if you’re at the office or with small children, you’ll need headphones.

Many a truism is spoken in jest and in a world where we are more likely to play angry birds than pick up a book about ornithology, reading for pleasure or self betterment seems to have fallen by the wayside. I’m convinced that the only book many read is the TV guide.

It’s not practical being a reader these days. I was fortunate enough to grow up in an old suburb, in an old house where we had space to keep books. My parents bought their house in the late 70s and today, with the same amount of money, they’d probably be lucky to afford a 10-year-old Toyota. That’s inflation for you.

The space case

Today, many homeowners live in smaller dwellings. This is not easy for the hobbyist. There is limited space for my bread-maker, beer fermenter, bicycles and turntables. I’d love a big library but it would mean having to erect a second garden shed.

The way I see it, having a large book collection is impractical, unless you’re a hoarder. Then you can keep your books next to the giant stack of pizza boxes, behind the pile of scrap metal or in the same room as the newspapers you have been collecting since 1985. Sure, you may not be able to find the front door because there are mounds of rubbish in front of it but let’s be honest, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll need to leave the house to go on a date any time soon.

But for those who are not hoarders, or in my case, reformed hoarders, we have to look at alternate means of collecting books. I have a Kindle. I know of a few folks who have signed up for library cards and a few others who swap and trade with stores that stock second-hand books.

You can on a Kindle

Going the digital route has pros and cons. It is the most efficient way to save space. Kindle e-readers can store over a thousand books on a device not much bigger than a calculator. Back up old books to a 500GB hard drive and you have more than enough reading material to last a lifetime. If you’re a fan of the classics, you can log onto the Project Guttenburg website and download over 45 000 e-books for free, legally.

On the downside, Digital Rights Management encryption may prevent you from downloading e-books from certain sites. You can easily convert files into formats your e-reader supports, but it’s another instance where overzealousness leads to piracy as there are countless websites that offer free book downloads, illegally.

Kindle e-readers are quite simple devices meant to mimic black and white books. This ensures that they are fast, have ample storage space and are relatively simple to operate. If you’re looking for a device for full-colour photography publications or dirty magazines, you’ll be disappointed and frustrated. Cough up the extra cash and get a tablet.

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