I love books. There – I’ve admitted it. I love the crunchiness of their pages, the texture, the smell and most of all the heftiness of holding an actual book in my hands, or how they feel when they fall on your chest when you close your eyes (only for a moment!) when reading an epic tome. I’m a book tragic! They have this need to be weighty, inside and out and the best ones have slightly yellowy pages with no pictures.
Yes, my books are available as ebooks, but for myself, I don’t actually read that way.
Sadly, now, I simply cannot buy all the books I desire. Not only because they are sometimes just too expensive, but also, to be honest, I am running out of room. Yes, yes, I can almost hear you laughing and saying ‘um, that is what ebooks are for’. A slim line ereader would take care of all my space issues. I haven’t caved yet, but I am starting to really use the local library.
All my childhood, I was a library fiend. Never capable of borrowing two or three books, always there for the major haul of nine or ten; really, how ever many they’d let me walk out the door with. Then there was the time we became estranged and I started buying all my books, but now, I’m back. It’s a very different scene to the one I left behind.
There are kids giggling in the corner, someone reading out loud to others in another. There are groups of book clubs discussing things, or knitters laughing together beside the stacks. There are rows of computers that hum quietly to themselves, with people busily tapping away on their keys, and unloved, drooping books for sale – ones that haven’t been borrowed is so long, its time they were quietly removed so newer and shiner ones can take their place.
Gone are the days of reverential hushes and that’s not a bad thing.
It’s the state of the books and the future of books in general that has my knickers in a twist.
My books are friends. Loved and cherished and are in pretty good shape in general, even the old ones. All except those I have disastrously loaned to others, some of which have come back with spines cracked and creased. The rest are loved, patted, placed on shelves, very few gnawed upon….
Am I alone in thinking books teach us, guide us, nurture us and expand and engage us, harbouring our dreams and loves and the stories of our generation? Recently I borrowed a book, a lovely book, full of strong passionate colourful people. And there were pages with what could have been coffee stains, or chocolate stains, or ‘who knows, I certainly am not going to ask’ stains and another book with…. ripped pages!
Is this what the future of books has come to?
People so used to tossing aside their Kindles or Nooks, knowing that when they come back later, it will have saved their place, so when faced with a real book, they carelessly fold down pages, or tear bits off to mark their spot? That reading a book with chocolate on your fingers and wiping it off on the pages is ok behaviour instead of just laziness?
It broke my heart to look at the books, so lovingly written with gorgeous covers, just splotched and torn, and tossed aside.
I believe in public libraries.
I really do. It’s important to have places where people can go to appreciate the art of penmanship and everything that books hold. It’s important to have places where large collections of stories are available to everyone; open access to that wealth of ideas and knowledge. Open access to new horizons that books and libraries are a vital part in showing us. But would it be too much to ask that alongside of the enjoyment of a book, we also took care of them, so the next and the next generation can enjoy them too?
Without pages missing… or stuck together… or words blanked out with your coffee?