I DON’T know why but “spring cleaning” in our house always seems to happen at the end of the summer.

Of course, you can have a clear-out at any time of year but the traditional notion of making a fresh start as the new flowers start to blossom and the grass starts to grow is deep-rooted in our culture.

Interestingly, some historians actually put the origins of spring cleaning down to not our culture, but the ancient belief in “khooneh tekouni” (or "shaking the house") in preparation for Nowruz, the Persian new year, when everything from the carpets to the ceiling, is thoroughly cleaned.

But, I digress. Despite the tradition, our big clean often seems to happen around the end of August when, once upon a time, I guess, we would have enjoyed renewed energy following a summer holiday.

The clear-out inevitably means taking a few boxes of well-read books to a charity shop or, if necessary, the book bank at our local tip/recycling centre.

My wife duly attempted the latter last week – only to be told that the book bank is being taken away because, apparently, the charities that operate it “don’t want any more books.”

As a person who loves to browse through second-hand bookshops as well as the tome-laden shelves in charity shops, I found that somewhat alarming – not least because, without them, the appeal of charity shops (and, therefore, an easy way to donate a few quid now and then to a variety of good causes) pales significantly.

Much of the blame for the apparent declining interest in books among charity shops will surely be laid at the door of the e-book, especially as book sales in general appear to be rising.

I have tried to read books in digital form and, to be fair, tablets can be easier to read on planes (especially those budget airlines where the seats are packed so tightly that even raising one’s arms can be a challenge!) and more convenient to transport on vacations when you need the maximum luggage space because of uncertain weather prospects. But, for me, there is something about digital text which strips the soul out of the words in a way that could never happen with a printed page.

Somehow, holding a physical book, feeling the pages, glancing at the cover every time you pick it up, flicking back and forth to check previous facts, statements or events, even the smell of the paper, are all part of the pleasure and enjoyment.

I certainly don’t get the same sense of anticipation and excitement from picking up a Kindle or an iPad as I do from lifting a new book and folding back the first page.

“But think of all the trees they have to chop down to make them,” I hear you say.

As someone with a keen interest in the environment, I can understand where you’re coming from but I can’t help but wonder exactly how much of the earth’s precious resources are used and how much environmental damage is caused in making these tablet-readers, which mainly consist of plastic, a much more difficult material to recycle which can then go on to create even more damage.

Paper, at least, is highly recyclable. Most books and newspapers these days are printed on paper containing a large element of recycled pulp and the industry, generally, plants more trees than it chops down.

And, unlike e-books, physical books can also be objects of beauty and highly collectable.

The good news, for dinosaurs like me, is that physical books are making a comeback. The Guardian reported that sales of hard copies grew four per cent in 2016 while e-book sales fell by a similar same amount.

To steal a line from Mark Twain (author of, among many others, Huckleberry Finn – my original copy of which childhood favourite still sits on the shelf behind me as I write): “The death of the book has been greatly exaggerated.”

I’d urge charities not to give up on them just yet…

* Creativity key to keeping this vital resource alive

DIGITAL books have also hit libraries which find it increasingly hard to win local authority support in the face of cost cuts, so it’s good to see imaginative attempts to keep them alive going on in Kirklees.

The authority’s chief librarian wants to remodel libraries to become voluntary and community hubs, from which other services – such as primary and adult’s and children’s social care – can be provided. If it helps protect this vital learning and leisure resource, especially for those who can’t afford to buy books let alone Kindles, I wish her every success.

* Exit, stage left… the time has come to bid you fond farewell!

A COLUMN about books and reading, which inspired my journalism career choice more than 40 years ago, seems a good subject on which to say my farewells as a weekly columnist with the Telegraph & Argus.

Yes, this is my final missive – not by choice but because austerity and cost-cuts also affect newspapers and, therefore, former long-standing editors. I’ve enjoyed writing for you and I’m grateful for all the (mainly positive) feedback and support.

Given this week is all about books, I’d like to end by quoting the title of the fourth volume in Douglas Adams’s brilliant trilogy, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which somehow seems appropriate. It’s based on the message left by the dolphins when they departed Earth just before it was demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass: “So long – and thanks for all the fish.”