For the Love of Books

It’s a weird, wild, scary world out there. Or so they would have you believe. But for the most part, I don’t buy it. I am the eternal optimist. The unflinching idealist. The firm advocate for the acceptance of the fact that the glass is not half empty — it’s half full. I cling to the hope that grace permeates everything, and that in the end love wins.

But there is something that pales the blush of my idealism: the thought of a book-less world.

Okay, I’m being melodramatic. There are far worse things than the slow death of the paper book. Famine, disease, poverty, war, human trafficking… And those things are all huge, important issues that deserve our time and attention. But I can’t help thinking that every loss counts, no matter how small, and I wonder if as paper books become little more than quaint collectors items, we will lose a piece of ourselves.

I know that Kindle, Nook, i-Pads, and other e-readers have been around for a while now, and I’ve never bothered to address the trend. But the future of the publishing industry is becoming more and more uncertain, and as virtual books take an ever-larger share of the market, it’s becoming apparent that the way we consume literature is going to drastically change in the coming years. Will my children know what it is like to go on a Barnes & Noble date? To sip coffee and browse? To read passages to your significant other out of a haphazard, eclectic smattering of books that spans everything from Calvin and Hobbes to John Donne? Or, will they ever experience the quiet comfort of running their fingers along the spines of all their collected books? Of picking a favorite off the shelf to read to their own children? Will they ever smile at the sight of childish handwriting in the margin of a book they wrestled with and loved?

I don’t know. And that makes me sad.

Of course, I don’t think paper books will go the way of the dinosaur entirely. There will always be coffee table collections, special print runs of huge works, and children’s stories. I think. I hope. And maybe the digitalization of our world isn’t a bad thing. It’s better for the environment, isn’t it? Less trees being cut down and all that jazz? But, oh, the romantic in me, the wistful, nostalgic little girl who loves her books as dear as old friends… she mourns an uncertain future.

I have a dog-eared copy of Cynthia Voigt’s Jackaroo, a little-known YA novel that grabbed my heart when I was in middle school. There are pages falling out of it, and the cover is worn white in places, but I adore it. I can pick up that book and be transported (by the way it fits in my hand, the scent of the pages, the favorite passages that I marked with faint pencilled lines) to the summer I was eleven and read it with my cousin as we perched barefoot in a tree. It all comes flooding back… And I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Not even a digital library with thousands of books.

I’m not anti-ebooks. Truthfully, they make up a pretty nice portion of the sales of my own books. And someday I will probably break down and buy one of my own. But I am very pro-book. Real books… The ones with pages and spines that you need to crack upon first opening. The ones that you can do these sorts of things with…

How about you? Do you think I’m being a big baby? (I probably am.) Or do you love real books, too? What do you think is the future of the publishing industry?

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