Posts Tagged ‘luddism’

No Cure For My Tree-Killing Ways

Posted: September 9, 2011 in Fun, Hobbies, Life
Tags: , ,

I am a collector of books. Not anything so grand as a “book collector”, which implies a charming old fogey with taste and discernment and possibly a natty old sweater with leather patches at the elbows and a visible revulsion for lowly paperbacks; no, for me, book hoarder might be closer to the mark, and paperbacks make up the bulk of the titles.

I remember fondly the two shelves that held the entire personal library of my childhood. When you factor in the detail that the bottom shelf was almost entirely filled by the Britannica Junior Encyclopǽdia set (with the bright red binding that at first glance made you think you had a set of large-print hymnals), you quickly realize that I owned virtually no books at all. But where my personal library was slim, the Flint Public Library was a gateway to every book in the world.

These days I estimate my shelves hold over 500 books. And a few hundred of those I’ve read twice or more. And while I love having them around, they aren’t what most would call display-worthy. And I no longer have enough shelf space on which to shelve them. I know I ought to purge, but I am reluctant.

Seth Godin recently blogged about the 400 paperback books he uncovered while cleaning his basement:

“The magic of books, something I haven’t found in blog posts, jewel boxes, tweets or old TV Guides, is that they perfectly encapsulate an idea. They have a beginning, a middle and an end. And they have a cover, something that wraps it all together.

Maybe I’m a fogie, but I have trouble visualizing a pile (or a wallful) of Kindle ebooks. I’m going to miss that.”

When he says he’s “going to miss that,” Mr. Godin implies that despite their magic, he will no longer have paperback books, and has said in many other forums that book printing is becoming anachronistic. I imagine I could learn to enjoy having a large library in e-book form, but will likely never completely rid myself of “dead-tree” books. I would miss them far more than Mr. Godin. There’s a tactile aspect to a favorite book that isn’t replicable.

Once or twice I’ve been caught in the act of smelling a book – inhaling deeply with it pressed up against my face. It’s a little silly, sure; but I love the smell of books. They are not all the same, either. Sometimes the scent makes me think of a coloring book, or of the glossy pages of a textbook or magazine. Once or twice I find one that smells like the Children’s Bible I had long ago. Sometimes the smell will remind me of an era, sometimes of a particular childhood book. Stuart Little always smelled like the wet canvas from the tent in my backyard that summer when I was ten, and I get excited to find another book with that exact same scent. Some smell like a phone book (now that’s anachronistic).

How is Kindle supposed to produce that? Isn’t that worth keeping? Of course it is. While I think e-books will continue to become more and more popular, the old-fashioned kind of book will not likely disappear. A real paperback means something that a digital reader does not. Which is probably why I have too many books, too few vacant shelves and the occasional paper cut on my nose.

What do books mean to you? Are there aspects to “dead-tree” books that prevent you from going whole hog on the e-book revolution? Say so in the comments below!