Friday, November 23, 2007

In defense of books

So Amazon’s Kindle and its unborn kin are going to replace books, eh?

I don’t think so.

A Kindle is a text machine.

Books are a different medium altogether.

Here are just a few differences. (Feel free to add to the list)

You can give books away. You know, physically hand them over. Here, take this book.

You can lend books. As in “lending library” or just plan lend to a friend. Return it whenever you’ve finished.

You can sign books. Write an inscription so that years, decades from now, someone will know that you gave the book to someone, or that it simply passed through your hands.

Insert a decorative Ex Libris bookplate in your book. Bookplates are themselves art.

Authors can sign books. As in “signed edition,” which adds value and interest. Try “signing” a Kindle edition. It doesn’t compute.

You can display books. Our libraries are reflections of our interests. Visit a stranger’s house and check out his or her personal library. The stranger is a stranger no more.

You can arrange books — by topic, by author by size, by your liking.

Books are art. They are artistically designed and bound. A Kindle, as far as I can tell, is a piece of leatherette-bound plastic.

Books have unique fonts that are themselves a medium. They are important enough to be described in colophons at the end of a book.

As art, books have varying value as they are sold used to others. Rare books, of course, appreciate in value. They are the mother lode of many a garage sale.

Books have cover art. Can’t tell a book by the cover? Yes and no. Recently I was sorting through books donated for our Dec. 9 Hillsdale community book sale and came across an old, frayed paperback edition of “Catcher in the Rye.” The cover art immediately transported me back 50 years when I first read this early edition. Cover art, regardless of quality, reaches out to us and involves us in ways beyond the book’s words.

Books come in editions, which, of course, adds to their value and interest.

Resellers determine n the price of a used book. If we had only Kindles, Amazon would set the price. The books we sell at our book sale produce value that we use to support out community. Books just keep on giving.

Finally, in so many ways, books are lasting, beloved artifacts. They are part of us and of our time as well as other times.

They are permanent, they are history.

They are irreplaceable.

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