Broadmeadows shopping centre was packed with bargain hunters the day Barbie moved in. Prams and trolleys dodged human traffic and people rushed past oblivious to the twisting pain in my guts. In the left hand corner of a brightly lit shop plastic limbs cluttered the space where Angus and Robertson’s top 100 books used to be. Barbie and friends now lived where Jean M Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear series had lured me into a fictional world and inspired me to write. A sense of loss tailgated me for the rest of the day like a shadow.
Things were changing.
Younger cousins were balancing alternate realities, their bodies firmly planted in the lounge room, plugged into IPods. “Hi Demi,” they’d yell when the colourful devices were miraculously absent. “We’ve missed you!” Hugs would last until other devices beeped. “The pie’s ready!” they’d say, flying out of my arms and into artificial restaurants. Just as the tamagotchi was upgraded with sophisticated games and gadgets, it’s naive to think the novel wouldn’t face a similar challenge. Yes it’s the age of technology but some things are irreplaceable. Curling up with a good book, coffee in hand, staining it in your haste to get to the next page. That surge of excitement when you enter a bookshop or library where worlds and possibilities surround your physical space.
Reading is an intimate act that requires physical, emotional and mental connection. I choose to have no technological barriers in my experience and I’m not the only one. There’s naturally going to be a digital readership but that doesn’t necessarily mean that paper books will be forced into retirement. The arrival of an e-form offers readers wider access to books. As a writer, I couldn’t ask for a better agreement. As a reader I choose stained pages and curled ends.