Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Jason's Lament or Why We'll Always Have Books

On this past Mother's Day, I was surprised and gratified to receive from my luscious hubby a Kindle.  He had an anxious look in his eye as he handed the package to his bibliophilic wife.  "It's the closest thing to the printed page," he assured me.  "And, now, you can store thousands of books in one place."  Then, wistfully, "I thought you might like it for when we're traveling . . ."  Ah, my poor, sweet spouse.  So many times I had  seen that fleeting grimace cross his face when I filled my tote with tomes for our numerous plane trips.  Usually around four big ones.  Really heavy ones.  Tote-strap-straining, knee-cap-bashing, TSA-suspicion-inducing volumes from whose extravagant bulk I would usually extract two completely devoured books per trip.  But, you always have to pack more reading material than you possibly need.  I mean, the worst thing in the world is to be trapped on a plane with nothing to read

So, in the gift of the Kindle, Jason was hoping not only to give me pleasure, but to make his own life a little easier.  And I like my Kindle.  But, I still love my books.

In fact, it is with dismay that Jason has noted no significant decrease in the incoming stream of books to our home.  True, I've purchased a few items for Kindle; but, those have always been books I may not have otherwise purchased.  That is, for my Kindle, I have only bought the ephemeral and amusing -- books on current events or political memoirs.  Nothing that I would ever care to read again.  It's like an instant, expensive library.

But, books are so much more.  If there is a book by an author I know and love, I purchase the paper and glue version.  If there is a book I may want at some point in the future to use as a reference, I purchase the paper and glue version.  If there is a book about which I am so enthusiastic that I cannot help but scribble notes in the margins of, I am thankful for the availability of those margins and realio-trulio printed words over which I can run a highlighter.

As every voracious reader knows, you get a system with books wherein you can find almost instantly any passage you want by memorizing (without trying) the pinched thickness of pages both before and after your desired passage and the format of the text on the page and the topic sentences of the paragraphs thereon.  It is a skill as surely as a cook's ability to plop in the right amount of spices without thinking or an equestrian's ability to sit on a spooked horse without panic.

"But," my husband pleads, "you can do all those things with your Kindle.  Search through it; make notes; highlight text, take it with you wherever you go . . ."  Unfortunately, though some people may be able to use and appreciate those features, I find them cumbersome and annoying.  Plus, there is something about the feel and smell of a book that Kindle, no matter how slender, readable, or portable, can never duplicate.  Pace, Mr. Bezos.  I'll stick (mostly) with books.

So, I think that, much like the poor, books we'll always have with us.  Or, maybe at least, we'll have them until my generation (or the generation right after mine) dies out and takes with it the old-fashioned notion that ink and pressed wood pulp is the ideal medium on which to enjoy written expression.  But, oh, what a gloomy world that would be -- without reassuring shelves of spined-out volumes reminding us of where we've come from and heartening us with whispered promises about where we could go.  I feel sorry for the future digital people.


vermonster said...

Kindle is the perfect travel companion, especially for those vacation lit books. How true that you should over pack books so you fon't fall short over a vacation! When I received my Kindle, it's first task, when received last Christmas, was to load Austen and Montgomery so they are always with me.
And yet...who can resist that new book smell :)

Joelle said...

I'm with you - Kindle's may have their place, but NOTHING compares to an actual paper & glue book. :)