As a writer, avid reader, and a lover of literature my heart has been quite torn with all the new gadgets that are slowly taking the place of a simple book made of paper and ink – one in which you actually have to turn the pages. I love technology but this replacement of my beloved books has taken me by surprise. I definitely love having thousands and thousands of books at my fingertips…all I have to do is “click” and in seconds a book is delivered wirelessly to my Kindle. For a voracious reader that is one tantalizing aspect of the Kindle. I believe e-readers are an amazing use of technology. However, my heart sinks when I see bookstores going bankrupt and closing their doors.
The small family owned book stores were the first to go. I started noticing this even as far back as the early 2000’s when the internet made books quickly accessible to purchase for cheap prices online. The latest bankruptcy from Borders and the rumors that Barnes and Noble is not far behind causes me to have an awful sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I am not only in mourning for the growing loss of “real” books, but my fear is that libraries are next on the list.
I recently found my copy of ‘Fahrenheit 451’ and I am reading it for the first time in over ten years. I worry that our society will one day get to the point where books and knowledge are not valued. There are some shocking similarities between our society and the one in Montag’s city – and it’s frightening. We might be a long way from book-burning, but by replacing books with technology it is not hard to see that we could get there faster than we think.
“There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.” -Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
“Books will soon be obsolete in the public schools. Scholars will be instructed through the eye.”- Thomas Edison (1913)
When I heard about the Kindle several years ago, I was excited and couldn’t wait to get my hands on one. My husband surprised me with a Kindle that year for my birthday. I think he thought it would fix our problem of books falling out of every nook and cranny in our home. Ha! Not so much. Although I love my Kindle, nothing will ever replace a real book to me. As my daughter says, “Books feel and smell good!” It’s true. Maybe I’m crazy but am I the only one who fans through the pages of a new book just to smell it? Granted, my antique books don’t always have the same effect. But there really is something beautifully human and real about diving head first into a new book – holding it your hands, turning the pages, and joining with the characters on their journey from the beginning, riveting paragraph to the last gripping, ending sentence.
I grew up as a child of the 80’s – and a lot has changed since those days – but going to the library was something I did a few times a week. I have so many memories of riding my bike to the library, finding a comfy seat in a corner, and losing myself in ‘Anne of Green Gables’ and ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.’ I rented Alfred Hitchcock and Shirley Temple VHS movies and fell in love with Cary Grant while dreaming about being as beautiful as Grace Kelly. I learned the Dewey Decimal System and scanned the library card catalog. I read biographies about Virginia Woolf and Ronald Reagan and was inspired by history. I spent hours hearing the poetic words of Emily Dickinson and William Wordsworth roll off my tongue and bring me comfort and solace. I dove into encyclopedia and picture books with a hunger to learn about the world. My local library in Farmers Branch, Texas was like a second home for me as a child. It held boundless, beautiful treasures that were just waiting for me to open.
I guess this is why I have been taking my girls to the library weekly before they could even walk and now that both of my girls know how to read, we go even more – especially in the summer. We pick out books, sit in a corner, and read to our hearts content. We also check out so many books, movies, and CDs that about once a month, inevitably, a book will get mixed up with our own and we will scurry around every room looking for the lost friend. We go to sleepy time story hour in our PJ’s, author book signings, and my personal favorite – the library book sale! My girls have met Peter Rabbit, Maisy, Curious George, Max and Ruby, and many other book characters. I hope that my girls will look back at these days spent at the library with fondness and remember that one special moment when they, too, fell in love with literature.
“He that loves a book will never want a faithful friend, a wholesome counselor, a cheerful companion, an effectual comforter. By study, by reading, by thinking, one may innocently divert and pleasantly entertain himself, as in all weathers, as in all fortunes.” -Barrow
The last few trips to the library I have noticed a shifting in the library scene. There is a large computer area and work station set up in the middle of our library as well as quaint little areas for people to bring their laptops and hang out while sipping their lattes. There have been a few times when it feels like we are the only ones in the library getting books…everyone else is on a laptop or using the library for their computers. While this isn’t surprising, it worries me that in the not so distant future, libraries – like bookstores – will be empty.
I guess I will always love old objects. I am a collector of strange things and one of them is the relic known as the typewriter. I currently have six of them and that is only because my obsession has outgrown our space and I am on a typewriter buying freeze…for now. As well as being unbelievably heavy, they also take up quite a bit of room and there are only so many places to put a typewriter in your decor. I spent the most money on one that is in perfect working order and I have romantic, albeit unrealistic, dreams of someday typing out a book on its beautiful clanking keys.
But for the moment, I can’t imagine not having my Macbook with me for the writing and editing process. I have gotten used to my first world comforts. I love technology, but I also love the amazing inventions that brought us to that technology. This era of knowledge at our fingertips, and technology surpassing now-outdated technology, feels excessive to a degree. There are some days where I just want to go back in time to a simpler life. A time with paper and ink, corded phones, and hand written letters. I am growing weary of the constant whir of the internet, blaring cell phones, and the constant need for wi-fi. I worry about what technology will do to books and other lovely things. These are the days that I know I just need to go to the library, grab my favorite book, find a comfy spot, and get lost for a moment. For the time being, I can still do this. And I will read my paperback books as often as I can until our technologically obsessed world finds another wonderful thing to deem as “obsolete”.
“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.” Joseph Brodsky
“All the computer can give you is a manuscript. People don’t want to read manuscripts. They want to read books. Books smell good. They look good. You can press it to your bosom. You can carry it in your pocket.”
― Ray Bradbury