I am a true bibliophile in every sense of the word. There is nothing on this earth that I love more than going to my book room at the end of a long work day; immersing myself in the wonderful smell of paper and glue, and that mystery (musty?) smell that has permeated every corner. I love sitting back in my lazy chair and simply admiring the beautiful covers that hold within them secrets and worlds that I have yet to discover and stories and characters I’ve met in my literary journeys that remain in my memory as my faithful companions and friends.
Too often books are used simply as props; decorations in a home that match a specific color scheme, or rows of books that are used to simply make the possessor appear more educated and worldly than they actually are. Even The Strand bookstore in New York City, which many would consider to be the literary mecca of the western world (the city, not the store), sells books by the foot according to your preferred color and binding type.
Much of this, dare I say, sacrilege comes at the hand of the advent of the e-reader. Don’t get me wrong; I do own a Kindle (actually two,) and they do have their place. E-readers are great for public transportation, and when you have to fly somewhere and are required to have your luggage adhere to the dreaded weight limit. Beyond that, the e-reader does little to quench my literary thirst. Sure, you can carry hundreds or thousands of books with you wherever you go, but what about when you don’t know exactly what you want to read next? I find it so much more fulfilling to go to my shelves, browse intriguing titles, read the blurbs, and eventually, usually after an exhaustive process of elimination, choose a book. With an e-reader, you often have to browse a “digital library” and know what genre or subject matter you’re looking for. Choosing a book this way limits the reader to only read what they “think” they’re looking for, rather than making a discovery by sight that they wouldn’t have otherwise made.
I am a stalwart admirer of the smell and feel of a physical book. Like many who lament the passing of paper books, I find a certain joy in feeling the pages between my fingers, being able to feel and see my progress as I read, and being able to go to a shelf and simply run my hands across the spines of my books. But for me, my love of physical books reaches a deeper sentimentality. When you’re finished reading an e-book, where does it go? Back to the digital library? Back to the “cloud” that nobody seems to be able to identify or define? When you finish a physical book, more times than not, it returns to its home on your shelves, to be re-read at a later date, shared with friends, or in special cases, passed down to future generations. My great grand-father passed a year or so ago, and his books were his prized possession. I was blessed enough that he found a kindred spirit in me and passed those books on. Had Daddy-Bob been someone who preferred electronic books, I wouldn’t have that daily reminder of him every time I look at my shelves.
Long story short, I rue the day when the paper book becomes “kitschy,” merely a relic from a time long past. My books don’t have batteries, you can’t fry the hard-drive, and I will hold them close, respect them as they deserve, and pass them on to those who appreciate them as much as I and generations before me always have.