I wish I had an interesting reason why it’s been so long since I’ve posted anything. The truth is that I’ve been working a lot more than usual (fortunately it is only temporary), and by the time I get home, my brain needs to be turned off. Besides, as a result of this overachieving, the only thing I have to talk about is work, and (trust me) nobody wants to hear about my boring job. That’s why this space has been left blank for so long.
That phrase made me think of the blank pages in a book that you find between the final chapter and the back cover. When I was a kid I wondered why they were there at all, because it seemed superfluous. Fortunately, having a father in the printing business, I received a detailed explanation on how and why it was required for a book to be properly bound. A disappointing answer, indeed, for a kid who secretly hoped that the answer would be “so you can continue the story any way you’d like”.
Book binding, I fear, is going in the same direction as the art of letter writing. (For my younger readers: Letter writing was the way to keep in touch with faraway friends. We didn’t have email or skype. We used a pen and paper, wrote down all the gossip and the details of our day/week/month, folded it, licked the envelope, and put the flag up on the mailbox, and then eagerly awaited a return letter in a few weeks. It seems preposterous now, even to me, but once upon a time I was really good at it.) Almost daily I hear people talking about their new Kindle or Nook. I see Facebook friends polling others on which one is better. "Which one should I buy?" they ask. Although I’ve never actually responded to anyone who asks, my answer would be “neither”. Buy the book.
I am judged and ridiculed for my refusal to enter the 21st century and buy a Kindle. People are astounded that a bookworm such as me would reject this electronic perfection. “The screen looks just like a paper page!” they say. “Sometimes, when I’m reading on my Kindle, I find myself trying to actually turn a page because it looks so real!” But when I ask someone to pull their favorite book off the so-called shelf on their Kindle and turn to their favorite passage, I am then showered with excuses when it takes so long. “Oh, I forgot where it was because I changed the font size!” Meanwhile, I’ve already found Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil on my own bookshelf and turned to the page where my favorite character, Chablis, is introduced. If you’ve never read that book, you should. I will lend it to you.
If I read it on a Kindle, I could not lend it to you. Well, not unless I was willing to give you the rest of my books as well. But then how would I finish the four books I’m currently reading?
Once my big sister bought a Kindle, I knew my life would change for the worse. She’s even more voracious of a reader than I am, and she used to pass her books on to me so I could add them to my ever-growing “to read” pile. She reads a lot of books that I wouldn’t normally pursue, but I’ve stumbled upon some good ones thanks to her. Alas, no more.
Even that isn’t the most important reason why I’m anti-Kindle, though. I never miss the B.I.G. book sales (Books for International Goodwill), and I can’t help but wonder what will happen to such charitable endeavors once the supply of used books starts dwindling. What about the kids whose families cannot afford books, let alone an e-reader? How can we get books into the hands of less fortunate young people if printed books disappear? Small-town libraries (and even some bigger town libraries) rely on book donations from community members to keep their shelves current and to replace worn copies of popular books.
I spent five days without electricity after Hurricane Irene. I had no television and no way to charge my phone or computer, but I did have a copy of The Help (a paper copy, of course). I read that book as long as I had daylight since I was unable to watch Big Bang Theory reruns. If the book was on a Kindle, the battery would have died and I’d have no way to recharge it. In my boredom, I would have resorted to pillaging the neighborhood and probably would have ended up in jail.
Okay, maybe not. But think about this: One good solar flare and your entire e-reader library is toast. Meanwhile, I’ll be happily reading Sacre Bleu and you’ll be jealous. You’ll beg me to borrow it when I’m finished, and I’ll probably say yes… but not until I’ve delivered a well-earned “I told you so”.