Thursday, 27 April 2017

Staying on trend!

Sales of electronic books are falling and sales of "real" books are rising. This is what I read in an article this morning. Figures published by the Publishing Association show that sales of consumer ebooks have dropped by 17%, while sales of physical books are up 8%. Consumer spending on books was up £89m across the board last year, compared with 2015.

One of the reasons given is that the kindle, once the trendy, must-have, go-to electronic gadget has become old hat, clunky and ugly when placed alongside new and elegant smartphones. It has failed to keep up with the times and demand that we all need a new one every year because model 3.8, or whatever terminology you want to use, has just been released, brighter and better than all previous models.

Who knew that kindles had to be on-trend? Perhaps they should have apps which tell you how well you are reading, how many new words you have absorbed in your current reading session, what your level of culture is on some artificially devised scale according to whether you read "Madame Bovary" or "Fifty Shades of Grey".

You can probably tell that I am not in the least bothered by the trendiness or otherwise of electronic gadgets. My iPhone is rather old, inherited in fact from our daughter when she updated to a newer model. My kindle does look a bit clumsy compared to Phil's more modern, mores slim-line, backlit version - he had to replace his original one for some mechanical reason - but it does the job.

And that's the thing: a kindle is a device for carrying lots of reading matter around with you without being weighed down by masses of books. And on the whole I do prefer to read a proper book. All of the arguments in favour of proper books - being able to flick back easily to re-read something, being able to skim through a few pages to see if you like it, the physical pleasure of holding a book in your hands, being able, if you ignore my father's horror of such desecration, to underline "good" bits and annotate your copy - all hold good for me. And I still go on buying books, despite the absolute lack of space on the bookshelves. But my kindle comes put when I go away on holiday. It's great, old-fashioned and clunky and ugly as some people might see it.

Reading on in the article about ebooks and proper books I came across this:

 "Once upon a time, people bought books because they liked reading. Now they buy books because they like books. “All these people are really thinking about how the books are – not just what’s in them, but what they’re like as objects,” says Jennifer Cownie, who runs the beautiful Bookifer website and the Cownifer Instagram, which match books to decorative papers, and who bought a Kindle but hated it.
(Catherine) Summerhayes (a literary agent for some company or other) thinks that “people have books in their house as pieces of art”. One of her authors’ forthcoming works features cover art by someone who designs album covers for Elbow. “Everyone wants sexy-looking books,” she says. She distinguishes these from “coffee-table books”, which is what we had before #bookstagram. This helps to explain the reinvigoration of independent bookshops, which offer a more styled, or curated, experience."

So some of the people buying books are doing so for the wrong reasons. No doubt they have tastefully arranged shelves with just the right amount of just the right books on them. We, by contrast, have some very tatty old books, shelves full to bursting in most rooms of the house, and piles of books waiting for a home! So it goes!

Here's another little oddity. Sometimes you read about villages in deepest Spain or France up for sale. Usually they have been pretty much abandoned and can be bought for a song, with the idea that you can do the properties up and make a going tourist concern out of the place. This time, it's a village in Yorkshire:

 "An entire English village has been bought one year after it went on the market for £20m. Albanwise Ltd, a Norfolk-based real estate and farming investment firm, said on Wednesday it had purchased West Heslerton Estate near Scarborough in North Yorkshire.

The sprawling and quintessentially British hamlet includes a 21-bedroom mansion, 43 houses, a pub and more than 2,000 acres of farmland. “Albanwise Ltd is due to become the new owner of West Heslerton Estate and looks forward to incorporating this within our North Yorkshire Estate,” said a spokesman, who said it was bought for an “undisclosed fee”. It is believed to be in the region of £20m.

The village has been owned by the Dawnay family for 150 years and the last owner, Eve Dawnay, who inherited the estate in 1964, died five years ago at the age of 84. Dawnay moved out of West Heslerton Hall, the village’s centrepiece, 30 years ago, and did not live there again.

The hall includes Dawnay’s purpose-built four-bedroom home, the village petrol station and more than 100 acres of woodland.

Her management of West Heslerton has meant very little has changed among the rented cottages for half a century for the village’s estimated 375 residents. Cundalls, the estate agents who handled the sale, put the current rental and subsidy income at about £388,000 per year."

Not quite the same sort of purchase as a village in deepest France or Spain. I have to confess that when I saw the headline I thought it said £20, not £20 million!

Imagine, in the 21st century, a family owning a whole village. Not just land around it but the village itself and all the houses.

A family member said: “We all loved it and it would be very hard to find a village with more loyal and lovely people living in it. There is a real sense of community which is hard to find these days.”

Her daughter Bridget, who still lives in the village and has been the shepherd on the estate, also said: “It will be strange to return and not be able to just wander around like I always have; that it will belong to somebody else. “But times have changed, especially when it comes to farming, and it will be lovely to see new life breathed into the estate.”

Everything has to keep up to date!

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