A friend of mine sent me this picture from a Borders book store that is closing in my old home town and it got me to thinking...
Books have been my salvation, my entertainment, my schooling.
I learned about death in "Where the Red Fern Grows."
I first read about Sex, Crime and Betrayal in the pages of "The Godfather." My mother handed it to me and said, "There's some pretty adult stuff." She was right.
I learned about politics and the evils of the modern age in "Atlas Shrugged"
I learned faith in the Scriptures and the lost it in the same tomes.
I discovered far away lands both real and imagined.
I found out that robots weren't evil all time while men often were.
I devoured authors whole, Bradbury, Asimov, Card, Heinlein, Tolkien all in phases of obsession
Books taught me everything I really knew through high school until I started living it for myself, but when something came along, I was ready, because I had read it before.
I love the smell of books, the feel of a new binding, the satisfying crack of the back as it opens to your first read. And older gentleman, sitting next to me, commented that I was reading a book that was older than me. and I handed it to him and told him to smell it. It smelled of my grandmother's house where it had lived for 40 years before I got it 25 years ago. I smelled of paper and ink and dust and I knew that my grandmother had read these very same words, this same book had been her hand and the underlining on page 230 was hers. how can you get that on a Nook? or an iPad, or a Kindle.
What do I do with my signed copies now? How do I get an author so autograph his greatest work when all it is is a screen that changes at my whim? how can I pass down a book that made me cry, taught me how to be a man, or helped me recover from my mother's death? via e-mail? What happens to the heirloom bible that sat on my Grandfather's lap as he read to his children, my father, night after night after night?
"Here son," he says as he clicks "send", "I hope you enjoy this file as much as I did." It just doesn't seem right.
I can't carry a trip to Mars or an adventure under the ocean in my back pocket if it cost $500. How is my son going to mark and highlight and share the dog-eared pages where "ass" or "vagina" shows up for the first time and it makes him giggle and stiffen in equal measure?
I know that real books are fading, the culture of reading is slipping away from us. Yes, it is amazing to have 2,039 books at disposal at any moment, but where is the connection, the tangible joy of putting in a bookmark at that cliff-hanger moment and forcing yourself to turn off the lights, not knowing if she lives or dies just one page turn away?
"He raced up the mountain on his stallion and spotted her on the edge of the cliff, urging his valiant steed onward, he leaped from the saddle and reached out for her as she began to fall....." [Bookmark][Close][Save location?][save file?][close][Exit?] doesn't have any sense of future.
The book isn't sitting on your nightstand teasing you with that cafe receipt bookmark. "Read me! it pleads. finally you give in and grab it from the nightstand and flip open and begin one more chapter. Instant on, always ready, a real book. And what happens to the joy of the library, browsing the stacks for hours, finding books that you never knew existed until you realized you had left "Vampires" and entered "Vasectomies" or you realize you have been reading an encyclopedia for an hour and have totally forgotten that you came in to the store for a greeting card and a latte.
I am a romantic when it comes to books, libraries, book stores new and used, and I fear their passing makes us all poorer for their loss.
I wanted to include a link to every book, a path to every novel, author, or idea here. This post is ripe for more exploration but my time is short tonight and I must post and go.