I recently read Joe Queenan’s article “My 6,128 Favorite Books” in the Wall Street Journal. It was an enlightening article that detailed how reading, once a harmless youthful pastime, transformed into what he calls a “personality disorder.” As we can expect from well-written articles, this one made me think. I began to think about how much I value books. Not simply the written word, but also the physical object of a book. I like having them surround me in stacks, organized or not. There are few places in the world where I feel completely unjudged and free than when I’m in a library or better yet, when I’m curled up, lost in a story.
I expressed this to my manfriend and he jokingly said that he was going to get me a kindle for Christmas. I, being the polite girl that I am, laughed it off and then proceeded to coo over how cute he is (I’m a professional subject changer). In secret, however, I was already plotting the death of this so-called “gift,” imagining myself stabbing it with a basilisk’s fang, watching a dark electronic blood seep out of it while whispering the words, “I’ll be paperback till I die, bitch.” Later that day someone broke the news to me that News Week had decided to adopt an all-digital format. This sort of broke my heart.
What is this? News Week won’t physically exist in print anymore? To make matters worse, someone wants to buy me an imaginary bookshelf? I don’t think so. Bad joke, Jeff, bad joke. A book is a book, not a sliver on some electronic bookshelf. Books are physical objects; they are meant to be real, to be something you pick up, something you scribble on, something you pass onto others. I understand the convenience of the kindle, and am not surprised at its rise in popularity. As Americans we are prone to always wanting that which is most convenient, that which is the quickest, that which is shamelessly easy. But hasn’t enough been sucked into the electronic world? Its bad enough I have like five different twitter accounts and two facebook identities, I’m hardly even sure if I wake up in the real world anymore.
I get that times are changing, and I think it unwise to actively reject these changes; resistance would be futile anyways. But I also think that it’s important to keep some things off of a screen—books especially. The act of reading is just that: an act. An act that is intimately connected to the book being a physical object. I guess I should say that I’d generally be satisfied as long as people are reading, period. I just think that books provide a good opportunity to get away from the glowing screens that are beginning to manifest our lifestyles. So this holiday season, don’t be like that Jeff kid and buy your loved ones another screen— there are enough screens these days. Buy them a book. Buy them a smelly, dusty, old book. Or buy them a basilisk fang for their kindle…
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