Saturday, January 11, 2014

I love the smell of paperbacks in the morning.

I think a lot about books.  There were always books, from my earliest memory.  I can thank my parents for that.  My mother's reading habits and my dad's willingness to drive me to the library in the next town every Saturday morning.
 Yesterday I took a day off for much needed rest.  Surrounding me on the bed were my laptop, my Kindle, a paper copy of "The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland" - a kind and timely gift sent from Michaela in Germany. And, of course, the ever changing plethora of cats.

  I hear a lot of discussions about how sad it is that paper books are going away.  Of course they are.  Paper is going away --or at least its widespread use.  I don't have a problem with that, short of a little nostalgia.  This is the information age after all, and I love it.  I have a library that fits into my purse, windows into the world in my house.  Any question I have can be answered in the time it takes to ask it.

  Everything has a price.  Remember beautiful stationery?  You may not, but I do.  Printed and scented and tied up in pretty boxes.  So exciting to choose the new box.  So thrilling to get a fancy envelope in the mailbox.    But then, once upon a time the sight of a woman's ankle could send a proper man swooning.  (And no, I wasn't alive for that, having grown up in the relative freedom of the 70's.)

  We move on.

 Some of us will  always love paper books. Of course we will.  They are our childhoods. And they likely won't disappear overnight, wiped out by a single cataclysm.  Instead, they will evolve into something else.
They will become artful, valuable and precious.   I expect that in short time the word "book" will replace "electronic book" and "paper book" will replace "book."  Or some such. Time will tell, and less of it than we may think.
I'll do what I can to preserve my small library of precious editions - my Sturgeon, Padgett and Leiber, my Bradbury, Asimov and Ellison.
Some argue that reading is going away.  Yes, indeed it is.  Language is changing at a logarithmic pace and videos  replace words and pictures.  This, to me, is a larger concern and another topic.

  But hopefully there will always be those of us who love language.  Writing is an art form.  A sentence so well crafted to give us pause will hold its place as such. Time will choose the classics of every era, including this one. At least I hope for this.  Stories can be read on screens as well as on paper.  In the end, it's the words that matter.

Despite my many faults and missteps, I've done my part as my parents did, in that all of my offspring read for pleasure.  And each of them writes creatively.   I don't have to wonder if they will pass the love of language on.  That's not my concern, but theirs.

  If you're filled with longing for paper books, go to the library or a used book store and breathe deeply.  Look at the light slanting across the stacks, dust motes dancing between.  And don't be sad about books. If you love them, you'll always have them.

Hope your Saturday is inspiring.

--your artist


Jen said...

I love my paper books. And it's not just because I'm a librarian, either. :)

Just yesterday afternoon, I sat in my home library, reading, and it just felt so nice to be sitting and turning the pages, feeling the paper (and getting completely caught up in the story). Lovely post, Lisa!

Unknown said...

i am very particular about books. i choose them carefully, and won't just read anything. unless it is given to me.

if the book is given to me, i don't even read the back cover, i just read it. sometimes the book is terrible. i am not likely to part with a book that was terrible if it was given to me.

i do not shelf a book unless i have read it--with the exception of reference books because who really reads those anyway.

i have my to be read shelf in my bathroom. an avid reader friend of mine i've known since 7th grade cracks up at this. he hoards books, has boxes and boxes and builds special shelves.

my books are organized in only a way that i would understand.

i am not opposed to an audiobook, but if i liked it i will go buy the paper copy for my shelf.

i do not own a kindle. i might own one at some point, but not for books that i want to read. more like for things people think i should read or something i have to do for some reason. except school. i buy books i have to read for school.

i like libraries but i want to keep the books.

i have books from when i was small.

i want to be a paperback writer.


Mike Sheffield said...

I understand the usefulness of electronic books, but how do you get the author to sign them? It's a wonderful thing to have an inscription from your favorite author in your favorite book.

And art books. Again, there is much to be said for electronic art, and even for e-copies or art created with traditional media. But, it can vary so wildly from computer to computer, and you don't know if you're really seeing the colors they way that was intended.

At least, I will probably always have new pop-up books to look forward to. Even if 3-D holography is perfected, there's no substitute for the sheer engineering involved in designing and crafting a paper pop-up.

Syd said...

They will pry my paper books out of my cold, dead, hands.

That said, yes, I can understand and appreciate being able to have my library at my fingertips (when the time comes for me to get an e-reader, which time is not yet now). But there are significant costs to any technological conversion.

I've already had to go from vinyl to cassettes to CDs for audio, and from VHS to DVD for video, and I'll tell you now that switching from paper to e-books is going to be a fairly titanic proposition, from a middle-class point of view: when I had to put my stuff in storage, part of what I packed was the contents of 39 linear feet of bookshelves, the shelves themselves at minimum double-stacked, in some cases triple-stacked. Plus a small bookcase in the dining room, and then the books stacked a yard high on a spare table, and...well, you get the idea.

Even assuming everything I own in dead-tree form is available in e-form (and I'm not betting on it being the case), it's likely to take ages for me to "replace" my library.

Not looking forward to it.

Unknown said...

I don't think physical books will go away any time soon. They have a mystique and a presence that the electronics can't duplicate. They also give you an emotional connection. Physical books are obviously going to be less common since we have other means to consume them, but "books" as in stories, I don't believe, will ever go away, even with the other types of media out there. It's a form of storytelling that is deeply ingrained in most of us.

lisa said...

Thanks for your comments. I'm trying to sort this out for myself and it helps a lot to hear from the four of you: Jen,A librarian, Jessie, a writer, Syd,an editor and Bob, a publisher.
I value your comments and I agree. I love the convenience of tech but I am in love with my paper books. Nothing can take the years and years of happy memories attached to the smell and feel of a real book.

Stacey said...

I love books in all forms, and have a huge collection (mostly hardcover,) in the house, as well as many, many ebooks.

I do not like to smell books. I'm beginning to think I'm in the minority on that one. There's a fine line between "paper smell" and "stink," to my sniffer.

Part of the joy of physical books is the hunt, and some is the art. Many paper books I own, came home with me because of the spectacular cover art.

I flip back and forth between ebooks and physical books when it comes to actual reading though, because when it comes right down to words on a page, each form is just a delivery method, and while I love physical books as an art form, the act of consuming story is not dependent on paper or pixels. Either or both is fine as long as I get a story.

Carl V. Anderson said...

I think about books all the time myself. In fact it sometimes surprising me just how much time I spent each day with thoughts coursing through my head about some book or another. The older I've gotten the more stories have come to dominate my life.

I'll always prefer the paper book and am not thrilled that they will one day be a rarity. But I have also come to enjoy and embrace electronic books via my Kindle. I am making special memories with books I am reading that way.

Is it my preference? ONLY because of price and convenience in taking it back and forth to work. Outside of that I would choose paper any day (with the exception of those chunkster books that require a weight-lifting physique to hold for any length of time).

Just the other day I went and grabbed a paperback from the local store rather than buying the cheaper ebook as I wanted to have the feel of paper in my hand. As I sat reading it later, smelling that ink and paper smell, I was happy with the choice I made.

I'm over being bitter about it and am loving the electronic age. But I am so glad I grew up during the time when books meant the paper and ink object. There is something very precious about that connection.