Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Books vs. Kindles

I grew up a book lover. As a kid, I used to go to the library where I'd check out 20-30 books at a time, read them all, and return a few weeks later for more. I read so much, that believe it or not, I read every book in my smalltown library on horses, cats, and dogs. Seriously. Fiction, and non-fiction. We had to fake a library card to a nearby town with the help of friends and start using the larger library there.

Along with this went bookstores of course, and book sales, and of course eventually the big box bookstores. While I still prefer the small ones, there of course was something mesmerizing about a big box store. Like the people in You've Got Mail, to a degree I was sucked in.

At the same time, a big part of my heart has always been with the used book. Whenever I pick up a used book, I think of the people who have read it before me. I love finding an inscribed name somewhere or a turned down page. I love thinking about what the person who previously read this book thought of it.

The smell and feel of a book in my hands, the crack of a new spine, or the way a favorite book flips open to a special page is a little magical to me. I am comforted by having books around me. As a kid, we moved a lot, but my books always made it through the move. When I look at the shelves now, I remember each time I read the book, where I was, and my feelings that went along with that place and time. I am virtually unable to get rid of a book, to the degree that at work one night I was tossing out the garbage and saw someone had thrown away a copy of Atonement. I was so bothered by this, I fished the book out of the dumpster, cleaned it up and took it home. Ironically enough, I had read Atonement a few years before this, and had not cared for the book. The writing was fine, but the mood it set isn't one I care for. In any case, I had a new copy to live on my shelf.

Today, found me sitting in my bookstore reading a bit and knitting while I waited for someone at an appointment. I found myself people watching more than reading, and realized with a jolt of sadness, that there were practically no people there. Sure, there were a few, a woman prepping for a wedding with the crazed determination to find the perfect book to help her. A girl with a nasty cold looking for something from Rachel Ray, a few kids with their parents, gravitating toward the games and toys, begging their parents for money to spend. An older gentleman seemed to be feeling the same I did, and was enjoying a new hardcover and the air conditioning.

We are entering a new era in the written word, and while I understand the practicality of it, it makes me sad, and reticent to change. While everyone else in my family is clinging to their new Kindle and singing the praises, I keep putting off getting one, or being given one. I've used every excuse in the book from not needing one, to not wanting me (or them) to spend the money, to the fact that maybe I should get an Ipad and have all my devices on one thing. But, the real reason, is that I can't quite let go of my pages. Sure, I understand why they're better. The ability to get books cheaper, faster, store them easier, and in much, much less space. The fact that soon we may have a library at our fingertips, and students won't have to carry bookbags, just a Kindle.

But, the fact is, my memories are still so tied up in books, bookstores, and being surrounded by books, I'm not sure I can ever really let them go. And it's sad to me, that that era is dying. The days of the bookstore is numbered in the way that Record stores were. Borders has announced they're closing all their doors, and who knows how long the rest will go on for. Some of this is intriguing to me, could you live in a house without bookshelves? Without a book living in every corner - (could you use the bookshelves for your yarn stash??)

And maybe I will give in and get that Kindle - eventually.

1 comment:

  1. I agree wholeheartedly. I love having a book in my hands. Not one for all these new fangled electronics; even if they were dirt cheap. You're right about the smell of a book, the feel of turning the pages, the feeling of accomplishment looking at the finished books on your bookshelf. Seeing the book on your nightstand reminds you of the story, where you left off, and gotta get back to it. Love books!! Too bad "progress" is taking the masses in a different direction. Enjoy those books!