I keep a penny on my bedside table. In fact, I keep quite a few. There’s a little stack of them there and sometimes my watch or my glasses knock them over and I have to stack them up again.
They are my bookmarks.
When I’m finished reading at night, I take one of the pennies and stick it in the crease of the book, at the page I am stopping at, then I close the book tightly on it. I like to keep the penny near the outside edge of the page. That way, I can see a hint of the coin within, a small gap to act as a gauge of how far through my book I am.
You would think that one penny would suffice but that’s not the case. When I climb into bed at night and open the book, the penny falls out on the bedclothes and it either sits there or rolls away. Part of the fun comes at the end of the reading-session – the sleepy game of trying to lay a hand on the penny that is lurking somewhere on the duvet. Sometimes it is right there to hand and that can be gratifying, almost as if someone is looking out for my reading routine and keeping it in shape. As often as not, though, the penny will be nowhere to be found and another penny will have to be selected off the stack on the bedside table and dropped into the book. That lost penny will often turn up later as a cold pebble in among the warm sheets. It gets returned to the stack. In that way, new pennies are rarely needed. The penny stack is in perpetual motion but it is also pretty much self administering.
This is just a tiny part of the reason why I haven’t yet come to terms with using a Kindle.
Like everybody else, I’ve been reading forever. I’ve always got a couple of books on the go. I think, for me, reading is almost like a sacrament. There are rituals and practices to be observed, places to do it, things which should never be done. These ‘habits’ which I have developed in relation to the reading of a book are both calming and moment-defining.
These long days are so full of non-tactile, technological, matters. Screens and keypads, calculators and tinny voices berating us from the ether. To arrive at the end of one of these long days and then to seek out more screens and buttons and such… to me it just seems illogical. It is a bit like a person who lays out deckchairs on a beach all day returning to that beach in the evening to sit on one of his own chairs. He wouldn’t. He would want to be far, far away, someplace with no speck of coarse sand and no hint of folding equipment.
Don’t get me wrong. I have read books on Kindle devices. I’ve read quite a few. There are books I can’t easily get in hard copy and, heavens knows, there are books I can’t afford in anything but Kindle format. I read them, I often enjoy them, but it’s never the same. It feels more like… ‘work’, reading something on a Kindle. It feels more like reading a document than a book.
I’m sorry. I’m old and a bit set in my ways. I just haven’t taken to the new ways of reading.
I’m afraid it’s still books for me. Old, new, hardback, tattered ancient yellow paperback, it doesn’t matter. When day is done, I want something I can open and close and turn pages on and drop my penny into when I’m finished.
I just crave something different, you know?