Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Books books books

Just back from a great trip through France and Germany (Reims, Strasbourg, Speyer, Worms, Trier and Cologne in four and a half days… our approximate itinerary is marked up in black) and was expecting a mountain of bumf on my desk. Surprisingly, and to my great relief, the only mountain on my desk was a tall pile of newly printed books – among them Dante's Vita Nuova, Conan Doyle's Tragedy of Korosko and Kafka's Letters, which I look forward to dipping into.

It's great to get out of Britain every now and again, not only because it's become a riotous place of late, but because you realize that in France and Germany, when people sit at restaurant tables or are on a tram or a metro, they don't muck around all the time with their iPhones and other hand-held gadgets.

Yesterday I went to my local gym and there was a guy on a cross trainer reading on a Kindle. Try to picture that. How much more idiotic can you get? I mean, I'm not trying to criticize Amazon or eBooks here: he'd have been an idiot even if he had been reading a book or a newspaper.

Catching up with the latest trade news, it's refreshing to hear what James Daunt had to say on The Future of the Book (BBC Radio 4, 15th August). I agree with him one hundred per cent. But when will Waterstone's start to buy beautifully produced books again?

Slightly more puzzling is Victoria Barnsley's half-go at Amazon in an interview for the same programme (16th August). "They're 'frenemies'," she said. Now, when HarperCollins shows such reverence, one really starts to wonder. And be scared...

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