Wow. My basic position on this is similar to hers’, in that not being able to imagine the wide-ranging utility of a new technology is more indicative of how limited and era-rooted my own imagination is rather than of how worthwhile said technology actually is.
At the same time… I do think there’s something not right with our world being all about screens, or more precisely, about us staring at screens. In fact… I sometimes feel like we are slaves to the screen. God knows I can be. The screen is the gateway to everything held in one spot. It’s pretty tempting.
But there are so many more things to look at… I’m always personally amazed by the things that clouds do, and by light that passed down between and through leaves in a sort of spray of shimmer. God that’s one of my favourite things. It’s entirely magical, my eye just can’t say no to it. Now… obviously this is kind of going off-track because one doesn’t “look” at a book as one does the sky. One has to look at the book to read the words to end up looking at something in your mind. Yet aside from the usual concern of having your eyes fixated upon a bright light for sustained periods of time, there’s something comforting about the texture of the paper your eyes rest on without you realising it.
It’s ironic because I have a teensy bit of a struggle with the question of buying books… of new acquisitions in general, but pertinently with books because I love them so much. I never read as much as I think I “should”, but that’s both because it takes me a couple hours of looking before I find the one book I really have to buy, and because I would wonder about the other things I was missing out on if I were reading all the time. I mean… reading is kind of an intense experience. To lose myself once in a while is great brain play but to do it all the time…. I think I would feel like maybe I was trying to escape the outside world. Annnnyway. I looooooove anything word-related, thought-related, feeling-related, life, beauty whatever. So I love books. And not just what they “do” but I love the sensory experience of books…. the feel of the paper (soft paper, maybe a little bit yellowed or darkened somehow – the paper I’m least keen on in books is that really shiny white stuff that’s also quite stiff… it’s just unfriendly). Some of them smell good too….. I like how they’re like little bricks, blocky yet seem to fit so perfectly in your hand. If I carry a book around on occasion it’s not because I’m trying to look academic but it’s because I just like having it in my hand, being constantly close to it. Oh shit, I think it’s like a security blanket… either a book or some pieces of paper. Sigh.
In Siena I happened upon a bookmaker’s workshop….. ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. He also made beautiful prints with hebrew sayings and religious stories and scenes from old life in the town. He was a nice guy, couldn’t speak that much English but tried all the same to translate the hebrew sayings for me and to explain to me what the print on a given card represented. He looked exactly like what one would imagine a bookmaker looks like :))) The workspace was quiet… ohhhhh… I have a photo, let me find it. It was like….. a special fantasy I don’t think I had ever tried to imagine fulfilling. This place. It was an introvert’s dream :)))
You know, just as I have many homes in various bits of the world… I have various heavens in my head. And this place is one of them.
Back to the struggle of buying books… I just want to have the ones I want to have. I want to read them… and I like the feeling of having them too. Of having my copy, of having it sit in a bookshelf, of knowing I can go back to it and read little bits whenever the feeling spontaneously takes me over. And yet… I’ve also wished I could make my (still quite small) collection into a library, at least for friends. I feel like they should have life …. they should be read, not just kept! And I think I’m also weary of what went into the books… yes, they are trees. If I already have books, fine. But continuing to buy them so easily, not giving what i’m doing a second thought and not imagining doing anything differently in the future… that means I don’t really care about what it cost to make them. The REAL cost, which is about life. Sigh. 😦 That’s one reason why I’d either like to have my own library (in the real sense of lending or even sharing with others) or… do what I’m doing now… try my best to become a library-goer. I’ve been really bad at this in the past. One year I can remember just simply refusing to do that schtick because books were so beautiful! I had to have them! Library books generally have some kind of plastic cover on them (ick……) and just… don’t feel special. I guess it’s like… library books are to be consumed, they’re food you eat , take into you and then it’s over. Whereas with a book you buy…… it’s a special possession, your buying it and having a place to keep it makes it loved. I guess I consider my bookcase a kind of shrine. It’s not just there to contain my books, it’s there to have them all together as part of a group that represent… things that have opened, grown, puzzled my mind. That have things that my heart has recognised, and made smile at that recognition.
So there are many good points about such a gadget, several of which this blogger identified. I just feel that it is another step towards voiding the world of romance; books are one of the ultimate messengers of this.
That’s the thing…. these things are useful… and they can be really cool and interesting. But… I think they do ultimately disconnect us that little bit more from the magic of the physical world.
If it has to be it has to be. But I hope there will always be bookshops, that maybe they will become antique shops or indie like record shops.
Anyway just ignore this book-sniffing-caressing weirdo. I know I belong on some far-out commune, shoeless to feel the soil between my toes……
I’m also going to go off on a related tangent… that is completely my own wonderings, I can’t cite specific scientific research to back this up. I’m going to speculate that… for the brain, for human experience… that there is actually a sort of poverty that comes from not experiencing these tangible things. I do think humans will become more and more intelligent… and actually secretly more unhappy and losers of the particular “human animal” intelligence.
Our conscious minds think they’re so smart in their ability to outright assess and name things. “Oh it’s a simple tallying up of the pros and cons of books vs. kindle”. Yet…. we don’t know all the things that are going on when we are staring at paper, turning paper, cradling or gripping this book in our hands. There is… an interaction between reader and medium, more than I think would be possible with the kindle.