THE inherited collected works of Charles Dickens fill a shelf. They have demure green hardcovers with pictures and a gold ribbon for a bookmark. There are 36 volumes, more than 18,000 pages, and the set weighs about 15kg.
The digital version is 53MB. The incredible lightness of e-books.
It can make you think of the insignificance of man and other platitudes, the idea that one leading soul's life's work can be repackaged so small.
I understand people who want to have a book in their hand, who want to look at it, smell it and use it. But e-books came to me as if they were sent. I bought a Kindle when it was still the manual model, with the button you had to push to turn pages.
Let us read
My wallet could not keep up with my reading appetite. Since then it has been downhill, as life goes. I am no longer Exclusive Books' target market. Bargain books are usually too expensive as well — you can relate when you have a pre-teen who wants to work through the entire oeuvre of David Walliams. Second-hand is all well and good if you're looking for older books. The library is all well and good if you don't want to keep the book. But you do want to. Often.
My salvation was scribd.com, a respected and legitimate online library with e-books and audio books, documents, sheet music, podcasts, cartoons and a surprising variety for R200 a month.
Scribd has a beautiful history. Trip Adler found out at Harvard that sharing academic documents with other students is a given. Then his father, a doctor at Stanford, heard it would be 18 months before his research would be published. Trip and two friends decided to build a website on which information could be published quickly. His father was satisfied and this idea is now a library.
Walliams is there in all his glory. Dickens too. A lot of Afrikaans. The New York Times bestsellers are available quickly. You can download and read without the internet, and bookmark and save quotes. It's a pleasure to browse a world of cookbooks for that one elusive recipe or track down authors who never made it to your local bookshop.
Old movies and cinema nouveau
Load-shedding and the price of slushies make going to the movies less fun than in the years B.C. (Before Covid).
If you want to see golden oldies or newer art movies, Mubi is an option. It's a streaming service with a select list of movies by new and famous directors and is updated every week. The titles are chosen by a rather bombastic team but they clearly know their movies.
That's where I streamed Éric Rohmer until my eyes watered. I knew about Claire's Knee but hadn't watched it until it appeared on Mubi.
The latest on Mubi are the movies of Italian director Alice Rohrwacher, an overview of David Lynch, '90s hits such as The Scent of Green Papaya and enough Kieślowski to keep you happy all year round.
It's cheap and there is a special offer of R10 for the first month.
YouTube offers many older movies, but then you have to live with ads and sometimes poor image quality. You can pay extortion money to get rid of this clickbait, and for better copies you can type HD after the movie name in the search box. But the easiest option is to subscribe to rated channels such as TCM (Turner Classic Movies). It's very American, but a solid collection.
Most people have already chosen their music stream, but Apple has introduced something special for classical fans. For your regular subscription, you also get a standalone app that only covers classical music. Something like this is handy because music streams' algorithms struggle, especially in classical, with questions like: is the album's artist the conductor, orchestra, soloist or composer? Soon there will apparently be extras such as librettos.
Apple Music Classical is in all the app stores. It was initially built for phones and still looks shabby on a tablet, but makes it much easier to find what you're looking for. And the playlists are excellent.
There you have it. Digital blessings in abundance that make art more accessible.
♦ VWB ♦
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