Monday, January 10, 2011

Books -- Soon to be Obsolete?

Between this article about using books as objects of home decor and recent news reports I've been hearing about the wild success of eReaders, I'm afraid that books--as least the paper-and-ink books that we know--are going the way of the typewriter and the VCR.
Now, I feel no remorse about the loss of the typewriter or the VCR. I think we can all agree that computers, despite their imperfections, make our lives better. I'm glad not to be typing this blog post on a typewriter (namely because, if I were using a typewriter today, it would probably signify that there were no computers, and hence, no Internet, in which case my "blog" would probably not be very successful). Likewise, DVD players offer many features that VCRs just could not match.

However, I feel great saddness that paper-and-ink books are becoming obsolete. Don't we all have fond memories of the way a favorite book looked or smelled or felt in our hands? I for one love lending and borrowing books, and that physical act of giving is going to be lost... pinging my latest great literary find to a friend's Nook isn't going to be the same as handing it over, face-to-face.

And what of the great pleasure of perusing other people's bookshelves? Is there any better way to truly get to know someone?
Moreover, I'm an annotater, which makes this whole situation even worse. I love to mark in books, underline, scribble, leave mysterious bookmarks in key pages and then go back, sometimes years later, to see what the me of a different time was thinking. To relive the original experience of enjoying a favorite book. It's literary nostalgia, I guess.

In any case, I'm afraid that, much as my mother has a record collection still sitting in our basement, which I mock, I will someday have a book collection, obsolete and also the object of derision.

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