Heart­en­ing news for us old stuffy book worms

Cape Argus - - OPINION - By David Biggs

IWAS de­lighted to read a story in the In­ter­na­tional Ex­press news­pa­per, say­ing that book sales in Bri­tain had grown to a record level. Al­most £6 bil­lion (R108bn) worth of books had been sold last year, ac­cord­ing to the ar­ti­cle. don’t know what that is in rand but it’s a pretty im­pres­sive sum. We’re talk­ing real books here, not elec­tronic stuff. Book sales in Bri­tain rose 5% for the year, and ex­ports of books by 8%. I’m hop­ing there’s been a sim­i­lar trend in South Africa.

I was pleased be­cause I was be­gin­ning to think the world’s brains had shrunk down to fit into a com­puter chip. The statis­tics mean that in spite of our ad­dic­tion to Tweet­face and Gooble and all the other electric con­nec­tions, peo­ple are still find­ing the time and the de­sire to open a real old-fash­ioned pa­per book. There’s some­thing very spe­cial about a book, its feel, its smell, the feel of crisp new pages, or well-thumbed old ones, the quiet sigh of a page be­ing turned. That’s magic.

I have tried read­ing elec­tronic books but I’ve never felt the same about them and al­ways felt slightly guilty about that.

Was I be­ing a lit­er­ary di­nosaur? It seems that a whole lot of oth­ers feel the same, so if I am a di­nosaur at least I’m in the com­pany of other di­nosaurs, and that’s com­fort­ing.

Ap­par­ently non-fic­tion books are the top sell­ers and this in­cludes cat­e­gories like home care, health ad­vice, DIY, pet care and, as al­ways, cook­ery books.

One cat­e­gory that seems to be de­clin­ing in sales is en­cy­clopae­dias.

I think this is cer­tainly the case lo­cally be­cause I re­cently of­fered a set of en­cy­clopae­dias to a lo­cal book­shop and was turned away quite firmly.

“No­body has the book­shelf space for en­cy­clopae­dias any more,” the book­shop lady told me, “and be­sides, if peo­ple want to look any­thing up th­ese days they click on Wikipedia.”

There used to be a time when many peo­ple be­came door-to-door en­cy­clopae­dia sales­men and women as a sort of last-re­sort job. I sup­pose they’ve be­come an ex­tinct breed now. Or maybe they’ve switched to flog­ging cook­ery books.

Ev­ery­body seems to have enough book­shelf space for one more cook­book. I must have at least 30 cook­books on my kitchen shelf. Most of them have never been opened, apart from that ini­tial drool over the pho­tographs.

When I de­cide to cook some­thing more dar­ing than my stan­dard shep­herd’s pie or mac­a­roni and cheese, I au­to­mat­i­cally open the same old soup­stained book I al­ways use.

Your favourite cook­ery writer is rather like your doc­tor. Once you’ve learnt to trust her, you tend to stay with her. She un­der­stands you.

Last Laugh

Two stu­dents were dis­cussing the prob­lems of liv­ing in stu­dent digs. They hated laun­dry, never even owned an iron or vac­uum cleaner, and were not par­tic­u­larly good at cooking.

“I ac­tu­ally bought a cook­book once,” said one, “but it was no use at all.”

“Why?” Asked his friend. “Did the recipes use ex­pen­sive in­gre­di­ents?”

“Not re­ally. But they all started with the in­struc­tion: “Take a clean dish.”

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