November 24, 2009

Books, glorious books!

I was just on Jill K. Berry's blog - she explains the one-off class she'll be teaching at Valley Ridge this upcoming Labor Day weekend.  It is a bookshelf made of books, and we'll be making books to place in the bookshelf.  It's really quite amazing, and I'm very excited!  I hope I can take the class!!

Jill's blog entry got me thinking about books in general.  They're such an ubiquitous item, books - but where would we be without them?  One might forget that we've only been reading books the way we do for the past 100 years or so, and to have the types of bookshelves the way we do now?  The last 75 years, tops. It used to be that you'd have a couple of Classics and the Bible.  Now look how we read!  It's incredible to me how many books are readily available.  And with do-it-yourself bookmaking from Websites like Blurb, the sky's the limit with what you'll be able to get your hands on.  It's really quite an exciting time for books!

You might've heard all of the hand-wringing by the major booksellers like Barnes & Noble and Borders over concerns about this year's holiday shopping season; they're expecting less-than-stellar sales.  Some 'experts' say we're not reading as much as we used to; others say that it's the weak economy and that more and more people are utilizing the library.  Whatever the case, I think the worry is for naught; I believe the problem will correct itself in a few years at the most.

While it may be true that we're not reading as many books for our own pleasure, I'd like to wager that we're reading now more than ever before.  In fact, I'd say that in 100 years, illteracy will all but be erased.  Why?  Because if the last 5 years or so are any indication, we'll be gleaning most of our information from this here computer thingy.  And unless you're willing to watch nothing but You Tube and Hulu videos, you'll have to learn to read, if you can't already.  Many people also predict that in the next 20-25 years most of us will be reading our books on a Kindle-type device.

Whoa, whoa, whoa.....okay, I can handle spending time on the computer for things like facebook time, e-mailing friends, uploading photos to Flickr - but READING?  Yes, I realize that I may be rereading this blog entry 25 years from now and laughing, but I'll be damned if I'm going to sacrifice my pages-and-cover books to ANOTHER computer-like device!!!   For many of us book-aholics ("bibliophiles" to you Latin speakers), the rituals of reading are as much a part of the experience of reading as the actual, well, reading.  There is a smell to books that cannot be replicated with a hand-held Kindle thingy.  You can't turn pages on that thing.  You don't need batteries to operate a book.  You also don't need an initial fee of $250 to read a regular book.  Oh sure, you can get instant gratification with the portable devices, being able to download a book and start reading it 10 seconds later.  But unless you've waited until the last second to start a 20-page term paper or you're stuck in the century's worst blizzard that will keep you in the house for the next three months, who needs a book that quickly?  Isn't Amazon's next-day shipping fast enough?  Or head to the mall if it means that much to you!

Perhaps another thing that these fake book hustlers didn't think of was the library/bookstore experience.  True book-aholics (sorry, bibliophiles!) consider these places sacrosanct.  They are my absolute favorite places to congregate, especially with my mom and sister.  Many times when we're together, we make time for a "Borders Run".  We will most certainly part ways once inside, but then we'll meet up again at the end and talk about the books we've chosen.  My mom is so well-read, she could tell you something about nearly every new book out at any given time (and yes, she reads the New York Times Book Review every week).  I tend to read more in the way of non-fiction and memoirs, but Mom gives Jen and me the books she's read, so I always have a wonderful choice awaiting me on my bookshelves.  And our library here in Fond du Lac is a wonderful gathering place, with a children's library, an art gallery, a used book store, a first-rate meeting room and a great staff.  Even with Google, you still need reference librarians!  Let's not forget the sheer pleasure of reading with like-minded souls.

And to end this blog entry full circle, let's talk about bookshelves!  If we do go the electronic route with our books, what are we going to use our bookshelves for - more tchotchkes?  Yeah, like we need any more of those!  I will take my paper books any day, thank you very much.  I mean, you can't make book art like Jill's with a Kindle!


  1. My mother took all five of us to the library every single week growing up. I still have at least four books going at one time, and take my kids to the library. Not to Just say no to the Kindle! Make your own! There are never enough books for my kind, never. Go Mel and Jen and Mom!

  2. I think you and I will be the first in the crowd of any protest of the Kindle, Jill! :D

  3. I do rely on audio books to make my 40-mile round trip commute bearable! There are always paper books on the bedside table, however, and a book or two in the "reading room" (i.e. the loo ;o) I don't see how you could read a Kindle in the bathtub. Too expensive if it falls in the water! :D

  4. Oh, audiobooks - I love 'em too! What makes them so great (besides their convenience) is that they never purported to replace their paper counterparts. And I never thought about the possible Kindle-bathtub mishap - thanks for adding another "con" to the growing list, Carolyn! :D