Posted by: Shireen | August 6, 2009

Am I a Book Snob?

The latest Vanity Fair had F and I in a serious debate about paper vs digital.  James Walcott was wondering what would happen to all those culture snobs out there if we all started reading books on digital readers or on our phones.  And I must admit, I am one of those people who are interested in what other people are reading on the Tube, in the park, at the train station and at home…and yes, sometimes I do make assumptions about them based on what they are reading, I admit it!

I mean, when I first met F, I liked him and thought he was interesting, and as my friend Y and I  discussed if he was boyfriend material, she mentioned an important point; one day she had seen him reading The Economist.  Well, he scored points on that, I tell you.  He must know about the world, he must have ideas and opinions to discuss if he was reading that magazine, we thought to ourselves.  And points were scored for F (among other things, but this showed me something about him that I had not realised yet).

Okay, so while I don’t really like the idea of digital readers because I can’t be nosy and see what other people are reading, I also think that it is taking some of the experience of reading away from us.  Remember that first chapter book you ever read and the  that familiar smell of a library book that has been enjoyed by people before you…the creases of the page that tell you that someone else curled up on the sofa with this book and loved it as much as you did.  Or the the feel of the fresh spine on a new book waiting to be discovered and then the satisfying feeling of seeing it on your shelf as one of the chosen favourite books …is that really the same thing as tapping a screen to move to the next page or opening a file to read The Book Thief? A book shelf at someone’s home tells you about who they are, what they care about, what makes them happy and where they have been in life.  I love being able to see that from my bookshelf and from other people’s.  If everything is digital, where will we share this aspect of ourselves?  On a play list?  On the book apps on Facebook?

While I do think that we (including me) will end up having digital readers the same way that we have ipods and cell phones – because this is the future and no-one wants to get left behind, I don’t think that digital readers are ever going to replace the way I feel about books.  So, yes, I will take a Kindle on holiday so that I don’t have to lug three books with me in my carry-on, but it will never replace all the read, re-read and loved books on my shelf.

And just think, if F had been reading The Economist on his phone instead and Y had never seen it, who knows how the story would have turned out!



  1. Love this post – I’ve been missing them!

    This time I’m definitely on your side bee! I need to hold the book in my hand – and I’m even willing to weigh myself down on holiday. Also I like thinking that nosy people are checking out what I’m reading – gives me pride in my choices. There’s also something about seeing your bookmark make its way to the quarter mark, half way and then that very last section when you know you’ll finish in the next sitting!

    It’s an experience, like going to the cinema vs. watching a movie on your ipod. My life is surrounded by computer screens and television screens – I want paper between my hands and under my nose!

    Shaleen xxx
    Proud to be a Book Snob!

  2. […] Why books won’t die, yet. Aug 12th, 2009 by Farhan. The Bee was telling me James Walcott’s article in Vanity Fair last month about the Kindle and how Book Snobbery was at danger of extinction. I was under strict instruction that she was going to blog about it and I wasn’t allowed. Fine. I waited… and waited and waited and then said if you don’t blog about it I’m going to write about it. So she did, finally, and she wrote a great post about book snobbery. […]

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