Apparently I am not very good at admitting that I am wrong! So here it is I WAS WRONG, sort of but not 100% of course! Wrong about what you may ask? Wrong about the whole kindle versus book debacle.
I strongly voiced that I never wanted a Kindle, that I love books too much! I love the physicality of a book, the smell of a new book, finding about the author, reading the blurb on the back cover, marking the page, flicking back to confirm a fact or a name, seeing how much of the book there is left to read and putting the finished book on the shelf (in height order of course, OCD much?). Who does not love a fully stacked, ordered book shelf, I once went to a friend’s house where the books were haphazardly arranged on the shelf and literally had to sit on my hands so as not to rearrange them all shelf by shelf there and then!
So now the confession! I love my kindle, I have it in my handbag 24/7, it’s light and I can whip it out anywhere and everywhere (as long as it’s charged) with a library of books at my disposal, with the added benefit of a backlight for night-time reading, I can bookmark (cute how the virtual page corner turns over), change the text size (handy in later life) and look up unknown words by hovering over them and check meanings too. What’s not to love! The turnaround in my thinking came whilst on holiday in Hong Kong last year where I purchased the first book in a now well-known shady trilogy and upon finishing it, the second and third books were unavailable in the UAE at that time. Needs must, so the books were uploaded to the other half’s kindle pronto and I was converted, a Kindle Paperwhite went straight to the top of my Christmas list last year and good old Santa delivered. Now the teenager followed suit, spouting regularly about not wanting a kindle, that she loves books but with titles here in the UAE so much more expensive than the UK and also a regular traveller, she now has one too, but isn’t as keen as me or maybe just not admitting it!
I still love books (hence the not 100% wrong) and book shops (especially those with coffee shops) and I always will. The Kindle doesn’t have that lovely new book smell (or even that musty old loved book smell with slightly yellowing pages of a borrowed or secondhand book). Browsing the online book store isn’t quite the same as wandering around a bookshop, picking up a book you fancy, reading the back to see if it hooks you or checking out the new releases in the top ten.
So with that in mind, I bribed the teenager in her after school hungry state with her weakness, chicken shawarma (you may be thinking that I always have to drag or bribe family members into accompanying me to events and you would be right! Is it because they are unsociable or do not want to be seen with me in public? Bit of both methinks) to a visit to the largest floating book fair which sailed into Abu Dhabi on 5th November. Upon arrival, once bribery meal consumed the teenager remarked “Why are we here exactly? You don’t like water! You have a kindle, you better buy a book!” My reply “It’s a new experience, I have never been to a floating book fair” There was definite rolling of the eyes in response as we climbed the gangplank.
The ‘Logos Hope’ liner is currently docked over at Mina Port with over 5,000 book titles on display mainly donated by British and American publishers, available to visitors to purchase at much lower than retail prices. There really is something for everyone from classics to cook books, an abundance of children’s titles for all ages, all set in what felt like a christian charity type environment with a definite churchy vibe (later research confirmed this to be true). The ship, captained by Tom Dyer from America, has 400 crew members from fifty-five countries, who all volunteer and live on the ship that sails from port to port around the world. According to its website, the floating book fair has so far attracted over 42 million visitors in more than 150 different countries, spreading the spoken and written word.
When the ‘Logos Hope’ owned by GBA, a charitable organisation based in Germany, last stopped in Abu Dhabi in 2011 (completely missed that visit), approximately 42,000 visitors were welcomed on board and this year the ship hopes to host even more. Alongside the books and discounted DVDs and CDs, the ship’s crew raise money for charity and educate visitors as well as entertaining the crowds with stories and give live performances of songs and dances from their respective countries. Part of the ship’s manifesto is that the crew bring aid, relief and community care to situations of need to the communities that the ship visits, working with local groups such as schools in each port, as well as the promotion of education and spreading knowledge. The first ship ‘Logos’ (means ‘the word’ in Greek) had its maiden voyage in the 1970’s and over the years the boats have got larger and larger with the biggest being the current ship, the ‘Logos Hope’ (which started life as a car ferry) its sixth and largest craft to date, to sail the seas as GBA book fair.
I read a great article a couple of weeks ago in the free xpressabudhabi paper about the UAE’s oldest secondhand bookshop ‘House of Prose’ located in Jumeriah Plaza in Dubai, that is celebrating two decades in business and now has three additional locations. It seems that the invention of the Kindle has not affected the bookshop business here, the owner Mike McGinley has 40,000 titles available across his four stores and sells an average of 150 books day and he was quoted as saying “Kindle is wonderful, especially when you travel as you can have countless books in one device, but that doesn’t mean people don’t buy the print books.” He operates a buyback policy and regularly buys boxes of books from the transient Dubai society, where expats are always moving on, what a great idea and service.
McGinley shared a copy of a handwritten note that was left inside a book on the House of Prose Facebook page, “A digital book can’t be infused with smells, can’t press flowers between its pages, can’t contain spilt tears or coffee stains…. no, only a real book can do these things.” Never a truer word……
So the kindle has won me over for its convenience and it saves my books from disintegrating in the hot weather when the glued spines melt on the beach, which is always a bonus. I miss lending friends a good book that I have enjoyed so now I text “download this book” instead, spreading the word in a new way! Technology and progress right there! But I will always be a book lover at heart. I guess as with all new advances there will always be different camps, those who embrace new technology wholeheartedly without question, those adamant book lovers who will always just love to read a real book and those like me with a foot in each camp, loves the kindle and the freedom it brings, especially when travelling without lugging heavy books around but still loves books and bookshops. Whatever the choice, the positives have to be that people still love to read!
The floating book fair runs here in Abu Dhabi until 24th November and is open to the public from 2pm–10pm everyday if you fancy a visit. Those who are looking to buy or even sell a good book’s can visit one of House of Prose’s four locations at Jumeriah Plaza, Dubai Garden Centre and inside Ace Hardware stores as ‘Book and Bean’ coffee shops in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Wherever you are in the world, if you enjoy reading, however you do it in original form or electronically, check out the ‘House of Prose’ Facebook page as it’s great for recommendations and reviews of books.
Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2014. All rights reserved.