Re­mem­ber, you read it here first

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - GRA­HAM ERBACHER

Here’s some re­search hot off the presses — the printed book, far from dead, is resurg­ing in pop­u­lar­ity (and not just ones for adults to colour in, ei­ther).

This is the study’s method­ol­ogy: me stick­y­beaking on what others are do­ing on trains, planes, ships and in cafes over sum­mer. Let’s call it ex­pe­ri­en­tial learn­ings.

But first, the bad news. I am pos­i­tively the last per­son on my morn­ing rail com­mute read­ing a print news­pa­per and it sad­dens me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my var­i­ous iDe­vices, but I pre­fer to be led serendip­i­tously to in­ter­est­ing read­ing by good lay­out, a stun­ning photograph or snappy head­line on a printed page.

A pa­per is such an un­usual item, how­ever, that just re­cently my turn­ing a broad­sheet page earned a har­rumph from a fel­low trav­eller in the train’s quiet car­riage. The eti­quette of such car­riages is no loud con­ver­sa­tions, phone talk or au­di­ble mu­sic. On my rail line, you con­front the non-com­pli­ant only af­ter tot­ting up the cost of den­tal im­plants. But I’ve been turn­ing broad­sheet pages pro­fes­sion­ally and crisply all my life. Page rustlers of the world unite, ours is not a noise crime!

Many of my fel­low train trav­ellers are fe­ro­ciously fid­dling on their mo­biles — game play­ing, I sus­pect — and scrolling through pic­tures. Some Kin­dle read­ing is go­ing on, but I have no­ticed the re­turn of the pa­per­back, across sex and age groups. Noth­ing beats the pa­per­back, eh? Flex­i­ble, easy to stow, it was in­vented for life on the move. Drop the book, so what? No ugly crack to stare through for all time. I’m proud to have shelves stacked with weather-beaten books, the pages of which sport bet­ter tans than I could ever achieve. On board Ova­tion of the Seas, the largest pas­sen­ger ship to visit Aus­tralia, I note pa­per­backs ev­ery­where — true, of­ten act­ing as place­keep­ers on sun lounges. Clive Cus­sler seems to be the go; is there a se­cret so­ci­ety of the Amer­i­can crime writer on the cruise, I won­der? This is a hi-tech ship and prom­ises the fastest in­ter­net at sea, but ev­ery­one seems to be tak­ing time out from mo­biles.

A few weeks later, on the lux­ury Se­abourn En­core, there are not so many pa­per­backs, but more leather­bound books of des­ti­na­tions and ex­pe­di­tions, and, joy of joys, faxed edi­tions of in­ter­na­tional news­pa­pers.

My sum­mer travel has also taken me by air from Syd­ney to Perth and Sin­ga­pore. Ter­mi­nal shops are ro­bustly stocked with “air­port” nov­els (there’s Cus­sler) and an as­sis­tant says sales are brisk. But I no­tice more read­ing go­ing on in de­par­ture lounges than dur­ing the flights.

You re­mem­ber how it once was — the lone light on over­head, just gotta get th­ese last 500 pages read be­fore we land in two hours. My guess is per­son­alised in-flight en­ter­tain­ment (gotta get through a whole box set) and tighter re­stric­tions on carry-on lug­gage mean not so many books are mak­ing it on board.

Don’t take my re­search as the ba­sis of a busi­ness plan, but I ob­serve that a new book­shop has opened at the lo­cal shop­ping mall. It makes a nice change from an­other brand of run­ning shoe, of which I have a few, or a hair sa­lon, for which I have no need what­so­ever.

Su­san Kuro­sawa is on leave.

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