Feeling a little under the weather, I took a day off and sat down with a cup of herbal tea … and a book.
After I had finished the book (its spine cracked with love, its pages beginning to age, its shape and weight comfortable in my hand) I went back to the computer to take a look at what had been going on in the world since I had last looked in on it and discovered a discussion on e-readers.
E-book readers are proliferating like mushrooms after the rains, and the more popular ones can do SO MUCH MORE than just letting you read a book. You can access your email. You can write on your blog. You can paint a picture.
But here's the thing. I was feeling off, and miserable, and out of it. What did I reach for…? A *book*. The kind which I could let flip open to a favorite passage (and I knew where to look for them, in the book, on a page). I could curl up with this loved and intimate object, and sip my herbal tea, and dive into the pages and pretend I was in a different world while the rain fell outside and the cats came to curl up at my feet. I was holding… a book. I had reached for one out of a need for love and comfort,out of a need for something solid and familiar and warm.
Could I have done this with a Kindle, a Nook, a Sony, an iPad?
Perhaps. Maybe. Some people no doubt have that ability. But I find it hard to derive comfort from even the idea of doing this, of holding a screen, of tabbing down through the pages rather than turning them with my fingertips when I'm ready.
Yes, I know the advantages. Yes, I know you can have an entire library in a single Kindle. But here's the thing – I don't read 3000 books at once. I read one. And I am more than happy to have the other 2999 of them surrounding me on bookshelves in my home. The books give my house a soul and a presence, they show the people who step through my door what kind of person I am, and they are all always there for me, just an arm's reach away, when I want any one of them.
I don't think I'll be buying an e-reader of any sort soon. I have bowed to a lot of the things that make up this cyberworld I live in, and have adopted the computer for a lot of things that I would never have dreamed it was possible for a computer to do in the relatively short time that it has been a part of every modern household. But reading…? Reading I do for love and comfort. And nothing beats the healing power of a real book in my hand.
Yes, thank you, I do feel better. Tomorrow it's back into the salt mines because there is a lot of work to do. But the medicine that healed me did not come from electrons. It was words, on paper. Love and comfort.
Long live the book.