Technology fan and general expert on everything Stephen Fry was once asked whether he thought Kindle would signal the end of proper books.
He replied: “Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.” That’s eloquently graceful, but increasingly untrue.
Latest figures from the UK show a significant fall in physical book sales last year, while audiobooks surged by a phenomenal and surprising 43pc.
The biggest sellers on audio were Michelle Obama’s ‘Becoming’, Joe Wicks’ ‘Fat-Loss Plan’ (these are recipes with workouts, so juggling a paperback is possibly one multi-task too many for fans), and Michael Wolff’s excellent White House exposé, ‘Fire and Fury’.
I’m not a fan of audiobooks but I love my Kindle, which is a sorry admission rather than a boast.
I tried to resist but it is so damn handy. Even Ryanair can’t scupper me bringing the mountain of books needed for a restful holiday in the sun now.
I’ve stuck with an ancient first model (well, second; I sat on the first one by accident, which alters your read in an arresting way compared to a paperback). It isn’t back-lit, because I can’t sleep otherwise, and the old leather cover is as battered and worn as a first edition at a flea market.
Stephen Lotinga, head of Britain’s Publishing Association, says that the popularity of podcasts and our familiarity with streaming helps the audiobook market. I’m sure the younger generation are so used to flicking, clicking and downloading that it’s a natural progression.
I’m also sure there are people who love listening to soothing voices reading to them – it taps something of our inner child, perhaps – or they want to hear an actor brilliantly narrating a thriller or dramatic scene.
For me, I prefer the dialogue in my own head. I can read at whatever pace I want, rather than be dictated by someone else’s cadence and voice.
The Kindle’s getting packed this week while I’m away … with a proper book tucked in beside the sunscreen. Hopefully I can read both quietly, as nature intended.
Can’t even trust the clocks
Also relaxing are residents of a Norwegian island which is in permanent daylight for 69 days every year. That must be disconcerting, so they’ve decided to go “time free” to use the 24-hour summer days more flexibly.
Sommarøy residents are getting rid of business hours and school timetables, ignoring the clock and working on their own internal one instead.
If it sounds mad, that’s because it is – the story was a cheeky marketing stunt from the country’s tourism board. But it hoodwinked the world’s media for a few days, and no wonder it sounded plausible after Finland recently called to ban daylight savings time, a decision which the EU will be adopting from 2021.
“Member states will be able to choose whether to remain on ‘permanent summer’ or ‘permanent winter’ time under the draft directive”, it says.
Anyone else see the problem here? And while we’re at it, because the UK won’t be in the EU any longer, there’s every possibility Navan and Newry will be in different time zones.
Just when you thought Brexit couldn’t get any worse…
Expect fireworks. Twice on New Year’s Eve, if you get over the Border!
My own thanks, Penneys
A shout-out to Penneys. The shopper’s stalwart is 50 years old this week and what a boon it has been to mums everywhere.
There’s many a family that wouldn’t have their kids clothed but for it, and its budget approach to dressing still means guilt-free shopping for all.
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