Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Do you lick your fingers to turn the pages? On judginess and book shaming

This will be a ranty post. Also, let me preface it with the fact that the vast majority of the books I read are ebooks. I seldom, if ever, read books printed on paper anymore.

I saw a post the other day, from someone pointing out how ebooks are better than paper books. It went like this:

"Do you lick your finger before turning a page? If so how many germs are transferred, would you do this with a library book or a friend's book? Or just your own? Long live ebooks!"

First, I'm going to answer the question as written, and explain why I personally don't think it's an issue. Then I'm going to talk a little about why I think questions like that are dangerous and unnecessary.



Do I lick my fingers before turning a page?

No, not as a rule. I've been known to do so if the pages stick, but I know there are people who do it as a habit. And it doesn't matter if it's their own book, a friend's book, a library book, or one they found in a secondhand bookstore.

But here’s the thing: people have been doing that for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. For as long as paper books have existed, in fact. Now I wish I could tell you that nobody’s ever died from reading a book because someone before them licked their fingers and turned a page, but I can’t because I don’t know. My gut tells me it’d be rare, though — rare enough for it not to matter.

And when I think of that question, I think about the (somewhat, but not quite related) habit of licking stamps. Sure, we rarely send letters these days, but if you ever did, I guarantee you licked the stamps before you stuck them on the envelope. So every letter you received contained someone else's saliva. And what if you collect stamps? Your stamp book contains hundreds or thousands of DNA samples from other people.

I’m reminded of those memes on social media, giving examples of all the things we used to do as kids which people frown upon now, and how we turned out all right, regardless.

In fact, I grew up believing that exposure to germs is necessary — crucially important — to the development of a healthy immune system. All the way through primary school, I was the kid who was always putting things in his mouth. I would chew on pencils and suck on erasers. I would literally tear pieces of paper out of my workbooks and chew them. Some might consider that a symptom of a mental disorder, but I grew out of it (or I just discovered cigarettes in high school, granting a social acceptability to my oral fixation), and I turned out okay.

Aside from that, we stuck our tongues on iced-over soccer goalposts. We pressed our lips on the hot Slasto and timed how long it took for our spit to evaporate. We skinned our knees and our fathers (sometimes our friends’ fathers) spat on them. We made and ate mud pies, many of which probably contained dog mess. We swam in slimy dams. The list goes on.

Even today, as adults, there are about a million ways we're exposed to germs every day. The man you just shook hands with? What if he went to the toilet five minutes ago and didn't wash his hands properly? Or maybe the other person he shook hands with five minutes before had just finished masturbating?

Or perhaps the lady sitting next to you in church or the cinema just coughed into her fist, shooting her germ-laden spittle a hundred and eighty degrees towards you.

And what if one of those people were to swipe their cellphone, tablet, or ereader screen and then hand it to you so you could look at something? That's a fairly common occurrence, and it might just be the electronic equivalent of licking the pages in a paper book before turning them.

I suppose technically, any of these things could kill you, but I do firmly believe that, unless you have a compromised immune system (through being very young, very old, or having an auto-immune condition, for example), being exposed to them in moderation can only strengthen you. Unless you’re in China, maybe, and you have to wear a surgical mask to leave the house!

Having said all this, I understand a little about phobias. I’m deathly afraid of spiders and marginally afraid of heights (although I love to fly, because once you’re no longer connected to the ground by anything, the height doesn’t matter anymore).

Germophobia, though? Nah, that's never been one of mine. I suppose there are lots of perfectly logical reasons to fear germs. More than spiders or heights, maybe. But they've never been something I've concerned myself with.

Note that I fully expect to be inundated with comments, from people who know people who have died from every one of those things I mentioned. Also, I wouldn't recommend swimming in slimy dams full of effluent, because the level of toxicity in our liquid waste is far higher today than when we were kids. But my point stands: exercise a little common sense and expose yourself to everyday bacteria in moderation, and you'll build a strong, healthy immune system... unless you have a condition that compromises your immune system, as I pointed out. Also, cue the obligatory disclaimers about me not being a medical professional, and me not offering medical advice!

Why is this such a problem?

Many people hold religious-level feelings about book formats and will defend to the death their distaste for one over another. This most often manifests as paper book die-hards attacking consumers of ebooks and audiobooks, sometimes going so far as to imply that ebooks aren't real books.

If we're not careful (and I've been guilty of this too), we ebook and audiobook fans could fall into the trap of "fighting back" and lashing out, and I don't think that's helpful.

The problem is, when asking a question/making a statement like the one that sparked this post, unless you’re careful about your wording and intonation, it can come across as “judgy” or “preachy”. Mocking of people who still prefer to read off paper.

That's tantamount to disparaging someone for enjoying Fifty Shades of Gray, or for liking pulp fantasy or Klingon-human romance or something. That's called Book Shaming. And it's not cool.

We need to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Personally, I always strive to keep my wording along the lines of why I prefer ebooks, or why I don't read paper books anymore, without trying to prescribe what other people should or shouldn't do, or poke fun at them for doing or not doing certain things.

As readers, let's stick together. The reading is the important bit, not the format on which we consume books. Let's go out into the world and show all our non-reading friends how important reading is, and how much fun it can be.


Wednesday, 13 November 2019

I Was Interviewed on Caxton Radio

If you follow me on social media, or you subscribe to my email newsletter, you'll probably know that they interviewed me on radio this past Monday (11 November). Sorry about this post being a day late - I wanted to wait until after my interview to write it, but then I ended up being too busy yesterday.

It was for a local streaming-only station called Caxton Radio, based in Emperor's Palace, and it was my first... Well, there was an "almost interview" for a radio station in Cape Town a few years ago, but that fell through. Besides, that one would've been a phone interview only, and this one was in studio, so even if that one had happened, this would've still been my real one!


The DJ was Paul Rotherham, whom I've known for many years; we've been interacting on social media since the very early 2000s, and I first met him in person easily ten years ago; when he worked at another radio station based out of Montecasino, my wife and I used to sit and chat with him in his studio sometimes, while he was off air.

This is the first time we've ever spoken on air, though, and I have to tell you, the man is just as much the consummate professional I've always known him to be.

He didn't brief me beforehand about the questions he was going to ask. On the one hand, I thought that a little strange, based on what I've heard from friends who've been interviewed (not by Paul) before. On the other hand, I think it's much better that way. I was super nervous going into the interview, and the fact that he just asked his questions casually made me almost forget about all those nameless, faceless people out there in radioland who could be listening.

We discussed my Retinitis Pigmentosa, because he didn't know I had it, and then he just asked a bunch of questions about me and my books. Questions which, as I said, put me completely at ease and made me feel like I was just chatting to a friend.

I brought in a copy of one of my books, Heaven and Earth: Paranormal Flash Fiction, and we chatted about that a bit, and he even (scree!) read the back blurb of it on air. Now that was a surreal experience, let me tell you!


I gave away a copy of that one on Twitter, with people having to listen in, and follow both me and Paul:
After the interview, the two of us had a quick meeting. I'm not prepared to divulge the details of said meeting yet, but suffice it to say, if you listened to the interview, you can probably guess.




It was really nice to just chat, and to once again be reminded that these so-called "celebrities" are real people, just like you and me. Just regular joes (and janes) who happen to be doing what they love.

By the way, for higher resolution pics (and more pics), feel free to check out my Facebook album. Click here.

So thank you, Paul, for a wonderful interview and a productive discussion. Here's to many more!



Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Featured South African Indie Authors


If you're a member of my monthly email newsletter, you'll know that each month, I select one South African independent (indie) author to feature. But it occurred to me that I didn't have anywhere to store a complete, exhaustive list of all the authors I've featured.

Until now.

I'll be updating this blog post every month, as I feature new authors, so check back here often, and hopefully find your next favourite.

These people are all South African born, but I can't promise they are living in South Africa as you're reading this (they were at the time I featured them, however). Similarly, most were IndieWide authors at the time I featured them, but I can't promise they still are.

Without further ado, here's the list, in alphabetical order by surname. Click on a name to visit the author's Goodreads page. Happy reading:
Note: I've included pen names where I'm aware of them, but also only where the pen name in question has its own distinct Goodreads page. If you know of any pen names which I'm not aware of, please let me know in the comments, and I'll update this post.

I hope you find your next favourite author!

(This post was first created on Tuesday, 5 November 2019. See below for last updated date.)