Between the covers: what's really going on in the world of books

Sunday 28 February 2016 19:06
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With bookshops struggling, Between the Covers admires the optimism of anyone who opens a shop that is shamelessly all about books. With a printing press in its basement and a ban on mobile phones, Libreria in London’s Shoreditch is a good old-fashioned bookshop, launched by the former policy wonk Rohan Silva.

Between the Covers went to the launch party with a fellow book-lover, Pierre, the bidder in The Independent charity auction who won the chance to go to a glamorous bookish event.

We were not disappointed – especially when we found ourselves standing on a trapdoor to the basement, with Jeanette Winterson towering over us (she was standing on the counter to give a speech).

Silva explained prior to the launch that the focus on books – lots of them, facing front instead of crammed, spines out – is all about offering “a rounded digital life ... a healthier equilibrium with technology”. The equilibrium part is fortunate. The evening’s music was to come from a record player, but Silva revealed that the low-fi tech wasn’t working, and the music had to be played ... from a mobile phone.

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Winterson gave an impassioned speech, all about the importance of books as the medium and the message. It’s true, there are some things that you just can’t do with an ebook – such as write the lyrics to your bestselling album inside the cover when inspiration strikes. That’s what Radiohead’s Thom Yorke did, scrawling the lyrics to “Airbag”, from OK Computer, in a copy of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience. He subsequently donated the book to Oxfam, where it was marked up at 50p before being spotted by a member of staff. The copy is now being auctioned for Oxfam, which is lovely … but Thom, writing in a book, in Biro? It’s sacrilege!

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Congratulations to the brand new Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour, set up by the authors Sunny Singh and Nikesh Shukla and Media Diversified. They’ve already anticipated the FAQs, and tell critics: “If you feel you want to put together a prize for only white writers, put your time, money and resources into setting one up and we’ll let the chips fall where they may.” Good answer – but the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction has been saying something similar for decades, and still they ask ....

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