For someone who embraces the latest and greatest technology, I sometimes resent how it has caused real printed books and real bookstores to be progressively obsolete.
I was watching a movie the other day where two people meet in a bookstore. They’re both browsing the aisles and run into each other in Personal Growth. The next thing you know, they’re married. This really happens. At least it’s one of my fantasies.
I love walking into a bookstore completely clueless about what I want to read. I can wander from the New Releases table to the Fiction section, over to Nonfiction, and finally to Mysteries. I might not buy anything, but I’ve just spent an hour or two cushioned by paper.
On my Kindle, I don’t know how to find what I’m looking for because I don’t know where to start. I know I can do searches and download a sample of the first few pages of a book before I commit to a purchase, but I can’t flip through different parts of a book to get a real sense of the plot or writing style.
In the same movie (guess which one), the guy tells the girl that he likes to read the end of books in case he’s going to die. That way, he’ll know how they end.
About a year ago, I decided suddenly that I didn’t need all of my books anymore because I could get the e-versions of them. I boxed them up and took them to a used bookstore. They gave me about seven dollars for hundreds of books.
I haven’t done anything about the empty shelves; they haunt me. I miss my books, my friends. Purging them is one of my top two or three greatest regrets. People say I can just buy the books again or download them, but some are now extinct and certainly didn’t make it to the digital world. Some were from the publishing companies I worked at, titles that came and went in a flash. Some were even signed by the author. How am I ever going to get those back?
I wonder what will happen to used bookstores. If they disappear, where will everyone get rid of their paper versions in favor of digital versions? Maybe this will cause those of us who still have real books to keep them.
Real, physical books are sort of like furniture. You arrange them, sometimes alphabetically by author or title, by genre or by favorites. You consider where to place them. Cookbooks typically go in the kitchen, unless you decide to pile them up and study them in bed. Those little humor books people gave you as presents might get relegated to the bathroom. Digital books don’t take up any space at all, which I guess is what some people like about them.
Real books evoke memories. They remind you of where you were when you bought them and where you were when you read them.
I bought Catcher in the Rye at a little used bookstore not far from my high school. It was worn then, and is even more so now since I’ve read it so many times. It’s one of the books I managed to keep, along with the other Salinger books during my impulsive book purge. I read Catch-22 aloud in bed with my college boyfriend, and we laughed almost nonstop.
Real books offer real pages. I used to use them to flatten out and preserve fall leaves. I tucked away notes in them, hidden like little secrets–love poems and phone numbers, old shopping lists and cash receipts. It was always a surprise to find them years later when I picked up the book again.
Another Word for Book
I wonder if the word “book” itself will become obsolete, replaced by some other word like eWords or ePages. I did some searches and it looks like ePages has already been taken for what used to be the e-edition of newspapers. So far, eWords are simply words that start with the letter E. Or maybe, like the word Music on my iPhone, Book will stay with us, evoking memories of what used to be.