I love books. I should expand on that thought and say that I love actual books. I have an e-reader and I think it’s pretty cool to be able to read a download…but I can’t fool myself into thinking it’s an actual book. I’m reading what I know is something they call a book…but it doesn’t look or smell like the books I know. Turning a page on a screen just doesn’t feel the same as holding a collection of paper with words printed on it in my hands. Sometimes if I need to find a real creative way of looking at it, it makes me feel like one of the apes in the movie 2001…clambering around the obelisk…unable to process this new thing in their lives.
I have a big collection of books. When you bring them home a handful at a time, over the course of 30 or 40 years, the pile can grow to an unmanageable size. It’s not hard to find yourself pushed out of your own house…and everyone in it paying for your interest in a too wide-ranging list of subjects.
Recently, we remodeled and I got rid of a bunch of books. I actually got rid of truckloads of books. It was a lot of books that I got rid of. I think that at the time, I was pretty traumatized…but now I’d be hard pressed to name any of the ones that I got rid of. It made a small dent in the pile.
It is a lot harder to take a book to the book sale or to a thrift store than it is to press delete. The e-reader is a boon for the minimalist lifestyle. If your Nook ever smells musty, something in your life is seriously wrong. The pages of the digital files will never yellow…never harbor black mold…never tip off the coffee table…but will never feel like a book, either.
I think that it’s my perception of what it means to own a book on my “electronic reading device” versus an actual physical book that’s really starting to kick in lately. It cheapens the value of it all…it’s not a part of my experience with books so it doesn’t have the magic that discovering a title that I’d been looking for has. I don’t remember ever feeling my heart race over my good fortune after doing a successful Amazon search for an ebook I was looking for. Something so easy to find…and so easy to delete…just doesn’t feel right.
I deliver the mail. I deliver the physical mail that people still write to other people. Legal notices, fliers about free pizzas, magazines, passports, packages full of surprises of all kinds…it’s all real and all capable of giving me a paper cut at any time. I don’t think that people are going to keep a file on their computer filled with all their love emails (unless you’re General Petraeus, I guess) …it’s too hard to perfume them and wrap them up with a piece of red satin. We need the physical thing for it to have any importance long-term.
I can’t imagine anyone saying, “Ohhhh, my…I remember this tweet. Remember when Grandpa sent us this tweet when he was still alive? Oh, what a tweet that was.”
Every generation has a chance to rail against what they think they’re losing. When I was younger, it seemed like time moved slow enough that I could believe that nothing was ever going to change…now it seems like it’s all speeding up. We’ll miss books someday. Maybe they’ll be an archaic curiosity, something we trot out like a fossil from the sandy cliffs…maybe they’ll all end up in a box with the old 8-tracks, I don’t really know.
I love books. The must and smell and falling apart and stained covers…the dogeared pages and some other person’s highlighting…the randomness of finding a used copy of a treasure that’s had a life of its own. I love it. I hope it sticks around for a while.