I’d like to continue last week’s conversation on the importance of books. Jenna’s response last week was delightful, and I couldn’t help but think it over again and again, along with the comments George left on my own post. Jenna is right, we don’t need books themselves anymore than we need writing at all. We exist without them, but do we thrive without them? But printed pages and pretty bindings have as much to do with aesthetics as practicality. We are creatures made for beauty and substance - for an experience that unites the senses, as a good book does.
I realize that I’m biased. That, while I’m not anti-technology, I’m also not a lover of all things new. And ebooks are completely impractical in my life, more so than my little laptop and my solar-powered Christmas lights. But that’s one of the glories of books themselves. Physical things, requiring nothing but a willing mind, they transcend so many boundaries. I can lend and borrow books, I can nestle beside my window with a book and not worry about finishing it before the battery dies. And I worry a bit, because now, when we travel, people bring along an ipod packed with days of music, a ebook loaded down with potential, and there is less and less space for human contact. When I travel, and am tired of Rilke and whoever else I’ve brought along, I’m forced to see the people around me. I’ve had my palm and birth-date interpreted by an Indian musician, I’ve listened to a paroled drug-dealer tell me all about his adorable pet bunny, eaten grapefruit in the rain with a man who ‘just needed a million dollars’ to make his life right, and laughed with a drunk Irishman on his plane-ride home. Each conversation started because the few books I could pack didn’t hold my attention and the world woke up around me. If I’d had my entire library along, they would never have been, and I would be without those people in my mind.
I know that the loss of human contact in our culture is not the fault of the ebook, and I have no problem with it’s existence, I just worry about it’s effect. George, Jenna, does this worry you at all? What do you think, everyone, am I just ridiculous to want a physical thing that can be asked about and then set aside? Is there a way to share ebooks? Do you ever regret having too many choices?