The other morning, I woke up and, as always, headed straight for my office. When I flipped on the light switch, however, I thought the house had been hit by a bomb. Where the wall of bookcases used to be there was nothing but glaringly white Sheetrock. All, and I mean all, of my books were gone. I bee-lined back to my bedroom and found the books on my nightstand missing as well … the same for in my bathroom, in the den, in my car. What ….?
Yes, it was a dream and a really horrible one! The absence of books in my physical spaces was alarming; the thought of never having a book to read and feel and smell was devastating. I doubt I would have been comforted, even in my dream, had an electronic device holding my accumulated library been left in the wake of the destruction.
One of the greatest gifts I ever received from my parents and teachers was a powerful love of books. I feel blessed by all the books I’ve enjoyed over the years. Books foster community and, at times, they’ve been my best friends. Without apology, I say no electronic reading device would ever be able to do that.
E-Books Make a Lot of Sense.
It’s true that e-books make sense if you want to carry an entire book collection in your backpack. They make sense if you want to switch from one book to another with ease. And they also are extremely practical if you want to acquire them from the comfort of your home. Bonus: In most cases, you can read electronic books in the dark with the light of the device alone. They’re also cheaper than their paper counterparts (though you do need to factor in the cost of the electronic reader and Wi-Fi).
But no electronic device is going to look or feel as beautiful and comforting as a book fashioned from paper. For some, like me, the smell alone of print editions is intoxicating. It takes me right back to the paper I first used as a grade schooler learning penmanship. Others are moved by the story each book tells in itself, of the many hands cradling it as words formed images in readers’ minds. Notice how most older book covers are dry but slightly shiny from the palm oil of thousands of hands.
Bookstores and hard-copy books will never go away.
The good news is that books are back! Nope, you and I both know they never really went away, and they won’t ever go away entirely — or not for a very, very, very long time. I suppose at some point we’ll have the text electronically implanted into our consciousness at either the bookstore or library (if the latter, someone will probably come along and erase it from your memory later), but even that seems improbable. Why? Relationship, for starters. Someone reading a print edition establishes a strong bond with the book itself, as compared with e-book consumers, who may be easily tempted away by advertising, e-mail, and messaging interruptions.
Libraries present a whole different issue.
Libraries are magical institutions, where staff devote time, energy, and research to get books for readers, even if that means acquiring them from another library, perhaps even in another state! All for free! And while I enjoy wandering the stacks, I LOVE that I can reserve books from my laptop and have them delivered to my local branch. I love the library, but don’t get me started on that diatribe.
I’ll bet book-sellers were initially worried that libraries would negate the need or desire for bookstores. But that didn’t happen. It didn’t happen because true book lovers want a long-term relationship with books. They value the love and devotion it takes to produce print editions.
I’m not ashamed to say I get a rush, a certain feeling of excitement when I enter Copperfield’s, our local independent book seller. The minute I open the door and catch that waft of card stock, I just know I’ll not leave empty-handed.
It’s obvious. I’m passionate about books. If push came to shove, it wouldn’t matter if I read them in hard-copy or electronically. I’m glad I have the choice though. There will always be space in my life for the printed pages of books.
Care to weigh in on this subject?