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The love of books

Books. What wondrous things they are. How invaluable they’ve been throughout history as bearers and guardians of mankind’s greatest ideas.

As I child I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by books. There were walls of books in my home and in my relatives’ homes. Collected and cherished by their owners, kept always within view, within reach. Hardcover books, standing resolute through the years, ready at a moment’s notice to impart their beauty, knowledge, and companionship.

I mourn the passing of those days and those books and the times that made them accessible to everyone. The computer age is stealing that from us. It is stealing the market for and appreciation of real, tangible books as readers turn to computers, the Internet, and portable devices for reading, research, ideas, and communication. At the same time, a lean economy makes it increasingly difficult to afford hardcover books. They’ve become a luxury.

So what are today’s children learning about books? Too often now, a “book” is a flimsy little paperback publication with no more intrinsic value than a junk mail catalog. It’s something to be read once or twice and thrown away, not something to be cherished. Like so many other things in our lives, a lot of books have become disposable items.

My son and his wife have always been readers, despite the multiple computers in their home. But their bookshelves are stacked with paperbacks. The content is there, but not the worth and permanence I saw in my childhood home.

What has saddened me most the last two or three years is shopping for books for my grandchildren. Whether online or in a brick-and-mortar, a depressing number of titles for children are offered only in flimsy paperback editions. No reason whatever for a child to value those. They wouldn’t last very long in a child’s hands, even if they were appreciated. Certainly better than no books at all, but they don’t teach kids the intrinsic value of a real book.

Equally depressing is my growing inability to afford the beautiful hardcover books that are available. But I keep trying. I like to think my grandchildren will always have bookshelves in their rooms, filled with much-loved, well-read hardcover books, books with personal meaning and memories. The kidlets may or may not grow up to be bookish types, but if handsome, collectible books aren’t put into their hands now, the appreciation can’t even begin.

1 Comment »

  1. Books are amazingly neat, but I find myself lately being quite happy reading things on my Kindle. I’ve only about 30 or 40 books now, but I have over 250 on the Kindle. It means I can take almost my entire library with me, even if it is a bit eggs-in-basket.

    You might want to read this wonderful article by Roger Ebert on the topic: http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2009/10/books_do_furnish_a_life.html
    _____________
    That’s part of the problem … people don’t have as much room for books as they used to, so e-books are a big help. I know you cherish your Kindle. I’m still addicted to the smell of ink and glue, the feel of the stock, the design and layout of the pages, the fonts and typographical devices employed, how well the art is handled. You work in the business long enough, you can’t help noticing those things.

    Loved the Ebert piece. Thanks for that. It was delicious reading, so much like when I was in school at about the same time. Comments were interesting too, but I was getting too bleary eyed to finish them.

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