We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

How Amazon is causing me to read more books and read them better

And not just in the obvious way, by selling me interesting books, cheaply, that I might not otherwise be able to get hold of.

It happened like this. The block of flats I inhabit has a door at the bottom which each of us can unlock from our flats with a remote control button, without seeing who we are letting in. This makes us vulnerable to robberies. What happened was that the buzzer went, and one of us would pick up his phone. A voice would say: “I am the postman”, or “I have a delivery for number 22″, or “I have come to read the electricity meters”, or “I live in number 29 and I don’t have my key on me”. It only needed one such person to be a plunderer and a liar, and one trusting householder to trust the liar, and the liar was inside the building able to steal any enticing parcels from the post boxes just inside the front door.

We don’t have a concierge, and we don’t have postal boxes that are locked. (Which may be why blocks of flats are now, more and more, big. They are big enough for all the dwellers in them to be able, between them, to afford a concierge.)

So anyway, this all makes it impossible for me now, in full confidence, to receive purchases from Amazon. They get delivered fine. But they are then liable to be stolen.

We have all learned about this, and I for one do not let people in without coming down and personally seeing them in and out. I get the impression that robberies have now abated, and the robbers have moved on. But, why take the chance? Why not, instead of getting Amazon stuff delivered to a home like mine, get it delivered to the home of a friend with no such problems, just his own single front door? Why not drop by every now and again to collect whatever Amazon stuff you order?

So it is that, instead of getting Amazon stuff for me delivered to my own home, it now all goes to Chateau Samizdata, the home of Perry de Havilland. And so it also is that I have yet another excuse for dropping by to visit Chateau Samizdata every so often, every time stuff needs collecting.

This is good in itself. There is nothing like face to face contact with good friends. Samizdata is all very virtual and twenty first century and all, but it started when people met each other face to face, and it works better if we keep on meeting in this old fashioned way from time to time.

But travelling to Chateau Samizdata has another benefit, for me. My journeys to and from Chateau Samizdata are by bus, there being no tube station anywhere near it. These bus journeys are quite long and time-consuming. The bus must thread its way through much traffic and many complicated London traffic interchanges, and make many stops. But, as the computerised and internetted age gets into its stride, I find that I now welcome such journeys. During them, I read. A book. I decide before my journey begins which book it will be, and then, when I am on the bus, I either read that book, or I do not. Those are my only choices. Many now take the internet or vast music collections with them on such journeys, especially regular travellers. But journeys like this are not quite numerous enough for me for mobile electronic diversion to be worth the extra bother and expense. I carry a book. Just one the book. Made of paper. So, on my bus, there are no distractions. Nothing else to entice me. It’s that book, or nothing. My home contains the internet, and a second cornucopia of other stored messages, in the form of many other books and CDs collected over a lifetime. How to choose? Too often, I spend scarce leisure hours swithering between these various entiements instead of properly attending to any one of them. But on a bus journey, especially one which you do quite often and thus don’t need to fret about, all such rival enticements and distractions are switched off. I have the one book, which I typically, as a result, concentrate on. I like this.

Holidays are famously the time when people read. But what if, when on holiday, you choose to take a book that you find you don’t want to go on reading? What if, in fear of that, you take too many books? And also, perhaps, a music machine? Then, how do you choose which thing to concentrate on? No, the best time to be reading a book is when you are using public transport to visit familiar but very slightly distant destinations, and going home after a few hours.

My latest purchase is Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature. It looks very good, but it is definitely very long. I must now contrive more expeditions to slightly faraway places.

12 comments to How Amazon is causing me to read more books and read them better

  • When I commuted by train, I enjoyed it for precisely this reason.

  • Sigivald

    Amazon causes me to read more books by selling me a Kindle and delivering books instantly (or near enough to it) to it, at my whim.

    Many of them entirely for free.

  • RRS

    In the US Amazon has worked out delivery sites (UPS Stores?) . Perhaps they have done so at places in the UK, possible near your dwelling??

    That might save you exposure to the Chateau, the trip, and in some cases nausea from reading whilst in auto transport.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Some people find it impossible to read on a moving vehicle.

    Fortunately, I am not one of them. I do a fair amount of reading on trains and buses.

    However, I find the environment unsuited to serious reading. I may be distracted by other passengers. (For instance, some time ago, here in Chicago, I noticed an El (“Tube”) passenger with a peculiar lapel pin. After studying it carefully from a distance, I recognized it as a Union Jack surmounted by a fasces – the emblem of Mosley’s British Union of Fascists! I was rather distracted from reading after that.

    However, in the last two days I did read Viscount Slim’s memoir of the Burma Campaign, Defeat Into Victory, on trains. So it may be as much a matter of readability: Slim was a very good writer.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    a friend once commented that ebooks and other devices meant that bookshops were now redundent. I disagreed, and pointed out that we’ve had electric lights for well over a century now- and we still have candleshops! The future of the traditional book might well be a similar niche market- perhaps a physical bookshop will be a place that makes a book for you, as a novelty gift item?

  • I don’t select a book. I have hundreds of books on my smartphone and half a dozen choices of reader. For when I am in the car, driving, I also keep the phone loaded with a dozen audiobooks I have not yet listened to, as well as a selection of lectures from The Great Courses, Yale and Stanford.

    I have recently listened to a semesters presentation on the history of the Old Testament, a history of Christianity from the beginning until 400 AD, Because they Hate by Brigitte Gabriel and both The Ethics of Liberty and For a New Liberty by Murray Rothbard and .

    And that is just recently.

    The smartphone is attached to the windscreen, and directs me via GPS while at the same time It delivers the lectures.

    Driving is not boring.

  • bloke in spain

    Something I did when I first moved down here was rent a Post Office box (Apartado de Correos). Most post offices have them because postal delivery isn’t universal in Spain. First place I had was at the end of a kilometer of goat track. Currently I’ve an apartment in a sizable town but like everywhere else I’ve been my high priority after arriving was to pay 70€ odd for a year’s service. I don’t have to worry about deliveries, signing for registered mail & most particularly “we sent it, must have got lost in the post”. If it’s got the AdC number on it & enters the post system it arrives. The opportunities for it to get ‘lost’ are minimal.
    The problem’s going to come if I move country. I’m pretty sure rural France has PB’s c/o la Poste. UK did at one time. Do they still exist? I’ll sure miss the convenience.

  • Eurymachus

    I just recently read Pinker’s book myself Brian. It was a fascinating read. Some of his thoughts on that Leviathan, the big modern state are not exactly things I can agree with but nevertheless their are some fascinating insights and nowadays it is so rare to read a book that is actually positive.

    I came away from it with a great number of insights that hadn’t occured to me before, or at least not in such a coherent manner. And it is an excellent refutation of that constant moan you hear in certain circles about our “violent” modern world.

  • Tim

    Honestly, get a Kindle already.

    I haven’t opened a paper book in 18 months now (bar textbooks from backward course providers who clearly are unaware of the 21st century, despite charging 21st century prices for their monopoly courses…) I even packed all (ALL!!) my books up in crates and stored them last time I moved house. They’ll probably never be unpacked again.

    I loved them, but now I have my Kindle and it goes everywhere with me. And holds more books then I will read before it gives up the ghost. Or possibly I do. I will never buy a paper book again.

  • Alisa

    Same here, Tim. Only I have to unpack my paper books yet again, because I have this beautiful cherry bookshelf, and it looks rather silly without any books in it…

  • Laird

    I like my Kindle, too, but mostly for travelling. At home I still like physical, tangible books, especially of the type I’m likely to reread or refer back to later. More than anything, I use the Kindle to get the (fairly large) sample of a book in which I’m interested, and if I like it I buy the paper copy. Kindle is for one-read books.

  • Alisa

    I prefer either Kindle or iPhone, because I need reading glasses, and they fall off my nose when I’m lying on my side – with electronic readers I just enlarge the fonts. Also, no flimsy paperbacks to fall apart in my hands, or bulky hardcovers to balance.