Last weekend I began the daunting task of packing up my apartment to move to a new place at the end of the month. I’ll be less than a mile from my current home, but I’m still faced with four years of Stuff to sort through and pack up. Since the closets were too intimidating a task to start with, and the kitchen still has things I’ll need right up until the move, my shelf-fulls of books were the first target.
Novels: into a box. Hmm… heavy. Down coat to fill up the rest of that box while keeping it lift-able.
Language books and non-English books: into a box. The dictionary/CMS/old Italian textbook really weigh that one down. Scarves in the top of that box.
Sentimental/childhood books: another box. A smaller box. Still heavy.
College textbooks, atlas, old journals, religion books, random others: another box. …Not liftable. OK, random others can go somewhere else. Hats/gloves/extra scarves to fill this one out. (Yes, I have a lot of winter gear. This is Minnesota.)
Without even tackling the cookbooks or music books—another few boxes’ worth—I start thinking, wouldn’t it be fantastic to have an e-reader? And to have all these books on my e-reader? An e-reader would take up a tiny fraction of one box. It would add less weight to a box than my other, longer down coat (not to mention the wool coats). And I could take all my favorite novels with me to the park, to a coffee shop, on the bus.
Right about now, that would be really fantastic.
And yet, I choose my big, heavy books. The hardcover novel by my favorite author that has never been cracked open because I listened to the audio version. The Serbo-Croatian grammar from the 1960s that I picked up at a church book sale, which I’ve rifled through out of sheer geeky curiosity but won’t likely need for any practical use, ever. The gigantic sewing book that could be immensely practical if I ever actually sewed anything.
I will gladly move them because I want to admire them in my new home. I want to strike up a conversation with a guest who notices a certain book/author on my shelves. I want to pull one out to check on a random fact and smell the musty smell that takes me back to my sophomore dorm room.
I’ve read countless similar Odes to Printed Books over the past few years, and I think I’m in good enough company that books are not in danger of disappearing anytime in the near future. But there’s a reason, or rather many reasons, Lerner has been moving forward with eBooks, iBooks, and extensive digital resources. I’d say portability, accommodating different reading/learning styles, adding value, modern appeal, and meeting skyrocketing demand are all among them. While I still love cracking open a book I’ve edited that just arrived from the bindery, I’m excited by the new forms in which book content is making its way into the world.
And yes, someday soon I will probably get an e-reader. But I’m still keeping my books.