Are we still talking about books?

I’m used to not understanding things, honest I am. As one of my friends said gently once, ‘You don’t really have much connection to the 21st century, do you?’ (He might have added the 20th too, but very kindly didn’t.) So that’s fine. But now I get the feeling no one else really knows what is going on either.

The headline on a e-book new story is ‘Apple sues Amazon’. OK, I’m good so far. Then:

The curated marketplace of categorized and user-rated software available for instant download, a paradigm made wildly popular by Apple with its iTunes App Store, may not in its many other incarnations be referred to as an app store, Apple said in a lawsuit filed today against Amazon for its soon-to-launch Amazon App Store.

I promise you, that’s what it said. (I felt too weak to click on the link, but feel free, here.) Then there’s ‘Microsoft sues Barnes and Noble over Android Devices’, which it claims is a patent infringement (here). Move swiftly on: ‘Amazon Shuts down E-Books Loans via Lendle’ (and here). Remind me, is reading a patented and legally protected activity? Am I breaking the law here?

Because what bewilders me, is these articles are all about books (well, except maybe the first one, which appears to be about gibberish). Books, you know, things you read. Michael Gove, Our Beloved education secretary, who gives the impression of having been teleported directly from 1936 with nary a stop in between, says children should be reading 50 books a year — yes, one a week. On the Planet Gove, gently orbiting earth, I can see that, but here? Where 20 per cent of children AGED FOUR AND UNDER (sorry, the shriek just escaped) have a television in their bedroom. (No, I didn’t make that up: here.) Where adults now watch four hours of television a day? Where idiots like me spend time blogging? (Can’t find way to link to myself: take it as, ahem, read.)

So, just so we don’t leave on a note of total despair, read about the Book Swap, which goes from strength to strength at literary festivals and other gatherings. People want books — you know, those weird blocky things with paper leaves — not Nooks, schmooks, kindles or indles. They just want to read. And instead of Lendles, the real joy is in lending — which is what the Book Swappers are doing — saying, ‘Here, read this, you’ll love it.’

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  1. MJ

    March 22, 2011 - 9:02 pm

    I totally agree. Except the first quote — about the app store — is not about books. Apps (short for “applications”) are kinds of software (things that make your computer run): doodads that remind you of things, serve as calendars, ways of organizing things, ways of recording things, etc. The gist is that Apple is the company that started calling them apps and they don’t want other companies borrowing the terminology, just as Kleenex Co. doesn’t want people calling other facial tissues “Kleenex.” So, I’m afraid the issue isn’t about books at all. Afraid the Android one isn’t really about books either. And I’m totally with you on the comfort of real, tangible, lendable books. Afraid to say, though, that because I’m crossing the Atlantic and don’t have the space to haul a heavy lot of baggage with me, i just bought your latest book on Kindle. Was that wrong?

  2. inspectorbucket

    March 23, 2011 - 8:37 am

    No, buying my book in any (legal) format is definitely not wrong! My puzzlement is more at how the selling of books has become a legal minefield, totally divorced from the reading (and writing).