Friday, June 09, 2006

Will the Book Endure?

Books are my one lifetime passion. I don't know when I first fell in love, but I'm sure it happened at a library or a bookstore. Like anyone who calls themselves a reader, I adore a good story, well written. I buy books, read books, store books and work among books. I love going to stores and libraries to visit books. There is a feeling I have when around stockpiles of books that thrills me, it’s a low hum of excitement or unknown possibilities that makes my heart beat faster. When looking at a fresh shelf of new books I am practically giddy while examining their covers or paging through their text.

It's funny that I still love my books, since I work around them all day. As a corporate librarian, my office is a library with shelves of organized books. They are really lovely to look at, but unfortunately these books, all technical and scientific, aren't the pleasure reading I desire. But I do love them as a backdrop. At work my main focus is a computer which is an excellent tool. My work is generally done on computer and most of my workday reading takes place on its screen.
For the last several years, it seems, I get some article a week, either from the library literature or the mainstream press about the demise of books. Most often these articles have a smug knowingness about them, they predict empty bookshelves and the de-evolution of literature from printed page to streaming words. All such stories champion the coming non-book age and scoff at the luddites who worry about it.
When I read this stuff, I panic a little bit, I mentally clutch my books tighter. Is a world without books a better world in any way? I would find it so lonely and plain because no matter how my computer screen was dressed up, it couldn't offer me the comfort of a book. I can't dog-ear my computer, or run my fingers along its side -- fanning pages as I go. Techno-geeks assure me that a new device will be developed that will enable me to take my computer reading to the beach, I'm not that interested.
I love a lot about the Web and the ability to self-publish and form communities. I'm blogging right now, I must think it's worth it. Anyway, here's an article finally defending our books in the web age. Lee Gomes, of the Wall Street Journal gets it right in my opinion. He covers the newest assault on books and the idea of user-generated content.
"It is an odd state of affairs when books or movies need defending, especially when the replacement proffered by certain Web-oriented companies and their apologists is so dismally inferior: chunks and links and other bits of evidence of epidemic ADD. Reading some stray person's comment on the text I happen to be reading is about as appealing as hearing what the people in the row behind me are saying about the movie I'm watching."
In my heart of hearts I believe books will endure because I need them.

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