Monday, October 24, 2011

Why I Like Books: Paper and Hardback

You can be a Nook or Kindle fan, and tell me that the portability of having an e-reader while you travel is absolutely superb. You can tell me that Tom Clancey’s books are too bulky to tote around. You can tell me that printed books will become dinosaurs of the reading world. And I’ll believe you.

But I will also be the first one to admit that I love printed books. I love to feel a book, to open it, to browse through its pages. I like to flip it and read the back cover blurb. I like the smell of paper. I enjoy the touch of a slick, smooth-bound book and the texture of a cloth-bound one. I like to hear the thump of a book as it closes.

During the summer when I was a child, I couldn’t wait for the local Book Mobile to wind its way through the back country roads and deliver books for farm kids to enjoy. It was a treat. There was nothing better than reading a good book outdoors surrounded by sweet-smelling clover and cool breezes.

As an adult, it was fun to watch my two sons learn the pleasures of reading. They shuttled Judy Blume books, Choose Your Own Adventure, and Encyclopedia Brown books to restaurants, on trips, and in book bags back and forth to school. They passed them to friends and reread them when they made their journey back to our bookshelves. I hope that we never quit printing children’s and young adult books. It’s a sheer joy to sees a child’s face hidden between the pages of paper, instead of pressed to an electronic screen where a touch of a button can erase the image and words in a split second.

I have a friend who says the one disadvantage of e-readers is that you no longer can see what other people are reading—at the beach, the pool, in airports and other public places. She told me she used to enjoy checking out what strangers had selected, comparing it to her reading list, and many times, striking up a mutual conversation.

Why do I like paper and hardbacks? You can leave these books anywhere you please—beside your bed or near your favorite chair. When you’re finished reading them, you can abandon them for others to enjoy in airports, doctor’s offices and places where people gather. You can give them to organizations for resale, put them in reading rooms of condo units or hospitals, or store them on a shelf at a camp or cottage for a rainy day.

You can pass that exceptional book on to a friend, neighbor, or a disgruntled traveler sitting beside you. Ask anyone in the military, serving in remote areas, how much a book can help to relieve boredom and offer comfort. My neighbor and I swap books on a regular basis. It gives us time to chat with each other, and both of us pre-screen the “good reads” for each other, not wasting time on those we know the other person won’t enjoy.   

Someday, many years from now when everything is in cyberspace, I hope there are a few favorite books, gems of the printing press, lying in dusty attics for our great grandchildren to open and say, “Oh my goodness! Here’s an original. . .[add you favorite author’s name here.]”