Ah, reading! If you set me loose in a mall, I’ll end up in the bookstore, and have to be dragged out. I daydream about living in a library. If I won the lottery (theoretically, since I never buy lottery tickets), I’d likely spend it all on books – novels for adults and kids, theology, biographies, picture books, history, all of it. It’s sad to think that my life won’t be long enough to read everything I want to read, and that after I’m gone people will go on writing glorious books that will be unread by me.
E-readers are the thing now. They make sense I guess, especially when traveling. If you’re trying to keep your luggage weight below the limit, it’s smart to download four or five books instead of lugging around twenty pounds of paper and ink. Having adequate reading material is of paramount importance. I can think of nothing worse than being stranded away from home, having run out of books before running out of vacation. How would I survive?
Not only is an e-reader practically weightless, e-books are usually cheaper than their physical counterparts. But here the advantages end. You can’t scribble comments and questions in the margins of an e-book. You can’t flip back and forth, looking for juicy quotes, or making comparisons. And you have to be always within reach of an outlet for recharging. If the electricity goes out at the same time your battery dies, there you are, without a book.
It’s true, you could have an entire library stored on this thin device that slips into your purse. But I cherish the real, physical books that inhabit my bookshelves. The sight of them lined up, or stacked sideways to fit more on the shelf, is comforting and grounding. A mere glance at a book, even one that I may never read again, triggers memories of the time and place I read it, what was going on in my life, and who I was when I read it. Each book holds a segment of my personal history.
Here’s a strange thing abut me. I love smelling books. It’s part of the experience. You open the book, hold it up to your face, and take a deep whiff. Inhale that heady aroma of paper and ink, the smell of adventure, of romance, of mystery, of new ideas, of deep thinking done by intelligent people who have poured out their hearts and minds and left you with all these words and thoughts on this splendid printed page. Every book has its individual fragrance, some delicate, some more earthy. A very few have no smell, which is disappointing. It makes me wonder if the book will be any good.
You cannot smell an e-book. I’ve tried, and all it does is leave a nose smudge on the screen. The smell of a real book evokes a magic that can never be matched by a hunk of plastic pretending to be a book.
I’m enamored with the embossed covers and spines, too, and the different type styles. And the many varieties of texture, from thin and smooth Bible paper (who invented that? What a genius), to slightly rough, to thick, crackly paper with deckled edges. When you put it all together you have a work of art, a feast for the senses. This experience can’t be duplicated by pushing buttons on an electronic stand-in.
So with a nod to South Pacific’s “There Ain’t Nothin’ Like a Dame,” I tell you there ain’t nothin’ like a book. Go pick one up. Consider the heft of it, the design, the artistry. And remember to give it a good smell before you sit down to read it.