Yes, that’s “The Smell of Books.” Personally, my favorite is “Eau you have cats,” which promises it will make reading your digitized book on your Kindle or whatever just like borrowing a book from grandma’s! First of all, my grandmother’s house did not smell like cat. Secondly… nuh-uh!
Look, I’m not a Luddite or anything. I’m thankful for a lot of the benefits that come with digitizing information. It certainly makes it faster and easier to do research, both periphery and in-depth. And I understand the appeal of the Kindle– being able to carry your entire library around with you, the ability to easily access new books… I get it. That’s cool.
But is that ease of access really worth it? I mean, isn’t it technically “easier” to listen to an audio book anyway? (This is not a knock on audio-books in general. You cannot listen to Jim Dale read Harry Potter or Jon Stewart read “America: the Book” and not realize that audio-books have their own particular charms). Still, despite the ease, there is a specialness about actually reading a book, about turning the pages as you go, dog-earing your favorite passages, underlining parts you like, etc.
There’s something about staring at a screen all day, whether it’s a computer screen or a television screen or now, maybe, a “book screen,” that makes me feel removed from the rest of the world. It doesn’t quite feel real.
YoSaffBridge and I were talking about this the other day, actually– the digitization of books and the potential fading away of real books in every day life. The smell of books was one of the things we would miss. She likes the smell of new books, while I prefer the musty smell of old books.
The physical presence of a book, too, is a powerful thing. I love being around them. It is the primary reason I like writing papers in libraries– not because I can’t find quiet spaces at home, but because being around books just makes me happy. It’s also, I think, the reason I’ve been so reluctant to organize my books at home, and so they remain stacked in no particular order all over my room. (Seriously, it’s a problem. I’m going to have to shelve them eventually or they will take over my room).
I love used books, especially, because you can just feel this history they have. And I like to leave my own mark on books; that’s why I tend to write notes in the margins of my books. Sometimes they’re random connections, sometimes they’re what seem to be nonsensical annotations and quotes. They always make sense to me, and I always feels like I’m leaving a bit of myself with that book.
And, on a similar note, what happens to the grand tradition of loaning books in a Kindle world? I love swapping books with people and sharing my love for something with another person. How would we go about doing that?
Perhaps I am just, once again, being a grumpy old lady before my time. Maybe I’m overreacting and the Kindle will be a temporary cultural phenomenon. Or maybe there’s a little bit of Don Quixote in me, tilting at windmills and all that.
As for me, I will continue to resist my Kindle overlord.