One of the pleasures of books is their sheer physical appeal. I love the slight ripples in exquisite papers, the smell of the ink, the pressed imagines, the leather of a binding, the embossed title, and the sound of the pages turning. I love how a book fills my hand. The weight of the book perhaps encourages me of wrongly of the value in the text. I love how I can hug a book when it moves me to tears and I need something to hold on to. I like the fact I can fling a book across the room when it drives me to despair! It is something the digital world will never replace for those of us who have held a real book in our hands. Our future generations will more than likely only see books in great libraries and in a way that’s sad, but then again, I don’t want to read on stone tablets or papyrus.
In libraries I search- in bookstores I browse. I hunt for a read that will take me into an another world for a few hours, and like any predator, I hunt the books I seek out with passion. Often it is the cover that catches my interest in a book and before I know it, it is in hand. Then the blurb on the inside of the jacket is where I test the waters. If that holds my interest, I check the quality of the paper. If it is printed on cheap newsprint, I think, this will do for my Ipad. If the paper, the printing is superb, then I consider the book for my library.
One of the pleasures of going to a book store is just this…the bookshops I love have loads of book jackets on view to temp me, and some sadly only few have soft comfy chairs to sit in. I often end up with about ten books, browse through a few, return the others to the shelves for another day, but I have never walked out without a book. ( Bookstore marketers take note- not all of us commandeer the chairs without buying. Please put more places to sit in your shops!)
So it really grabbed my attention when I learned of a library in Texas that has no books. No books, how then can you be a library? Of course I am stuck in my frame of reference, libraries of old, the massive stone steps, the green shaded lights, the oak bookcases, the long tables to work at, and the endless shelves of books, and not to forget all the readers bent over lost in worlds they only were privy to.
The Library is the first all digital library located in Texas, entitled Biblio Tech and currently will offer 10,000 free digital books. There will be no plans ever to offer the printed version of the book. This is the brainchild of the founder Nelson Wolff, a judge, who whilst reading the autobiography of Apple’s Great Master, Steve Jobs, was so inspired, he had to create the library.
This book free library will become a common way to read books in the future. Bookstores that are failing should offer digital loading stations. I was browsing in HMV with a friend and found a few Cds that I liked, but I don’t own a cd player and no where in the store was a download section. Music down load stations…well why not allow a reader to browse the bookshop, then upon finding a book to purchase, offer the reader two ways to obtain the book, an instant download to any format, not just the shop’s format, or a nicely wrapped physical book to take home? It is an easy blend of both worlds, as I don’t believe that in my lifetime the physical book will ever disappear.
There was a recent study of children by U. S. Publisher, Scholastic, claiming that although some 46 percent of a 1000 children had read a digital book, 80 percent wanted the real book. I am the same way…I read some books on my Ipad, but I still read more books in physical form.
I have to say in an odd way with the physical book, you do get a sense of real ownership, this is my book. I am reading THIS book. Perhaps like the children I want to own the book, and with the digital there is the feeling the book is out there in space… somewhere. Is there a feeling of uneasiness associated with this somewhere out there? Do our devices leave us feeling slightly ungrounded and we want something of this earth to hold and touch, and thus reassure us that the worlds we travel to whilst reading are indeed real?
I’d love to hear your take on this…in the meanwhile I am going to get stuck in with a book and a cup of tea.