IN Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Miss Caroline Bingley announces:

"I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading. How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book." It is evidently a sentiment with which the people of the Orkney islands of North Ronaldsay and Papa Westray wholeheartedly agree.

Even in this age when most people can download their reading matter electronically, the 162-strong combined populations of the two islands still regard the printed book as king.

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The islanders relish their twice-weekly book deliveries from the main library in Kirkwall, a service that has continued unabated since 1954.

Much has happened over the past 50 years, but the power and allure of the printed book have scarcely diminished. A book needs no electricity supply, no internet connection, nor credit card account. All that is required is the time and space to exercise one's imagination.

The Family Box Service is a link with the past that is to be treasured. One islander says that "when the box comes though every month, it's a little bit like Christmas". Truly, the book - especially in Orkney's case - is the gift that keeps on giving.