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My Conflicted Mind – Part 2


Part 2 – Nostalgia vs. The Future

I think that this quote is maybe the best way to describe my current dilemma. Yes, I live with multiple dilemmas.

Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?

–Henry Ward Beecher

I LOVE bookstores, and the older the books in said bookstore the more I like them. Rarely do I buy a book fresh off the presses, with the exception of a handful of writers that I cannot resist reading the day it is published I like the hunt of finding a used book. Half Price Books is maybe my favorite place in town, it and my knitting store are places that I can get lost in for hours and never consider it wasted time.

When my husband and I bought our home we decided that it needed a library, it was something we had both dreamed of having at our fingertips as “adults”. It started pretty simply with copies of our favorite and most believed books we moved out of our parents home with and a dash of academic books for reference. But it kept growing and growing…then it grew a little more….then it took over the house. Our complete basement, the biggest single room in the whole house now contains over 2,500 books. Is this extreme? Oh God yes it is extreme, but that doesn’t detract from the beauty of the thing at all. It is this eclectic mix of old and new, signed leather bound tomes and mass market paperbacks. Organized by genre, then by author -Oh dear! My OCD is showing!- it is accessible, functional, and fu*%ing amazing!

To the casual observer, it may seem as if two people and 2,500 books seems more like severely organized hoarding, but they would be dead wrong. Our friends and family have been using our library as much as we have, for years they come and ponder our stacks, borrowing what suits their fancy and always coming back for more. Two years ago a dear friend of mine made library cards for us to give people, as well as a computer program that would scan bar codes so we would always know where our books were. This may be the most epic-ly unique present I will ever receive and they’re actually used. It becomes a joke when we have friends over for dinner, they’ll creep down to the library while I am cooking and gladly present their library cards and books as they are getting ready to leave. The warm feeling of being able to share this with the family I was born into and the families I have made is akin to hot tea with honey on a rainy day. There is nothing better.

Well, maybe if I give them a sweater to wear while they are drinking tea with honey and reading a book might top it. Although that may be too good, some things our mind will just never be able to fathom.

The library grew even more with the arrival of my niece. First with storybook’s full of whimsical pictures, textured pages and magical places that will resonate into adulthood. When she got older it was on to starter chapter books; she devoured these books with the same insane enthusiasm that I have always had for books. She would read them, then try to read them aloud to us and ask every question imaginable about them – then promptly demand another book. Now that she is in the sixth grade, and has a reading level closer to a high schooler, the books we already have are working their way into her repertoire. She hasn’t outgrown that greedy lust for books (I hope she never does) but she posed a question to me recently that got me thinking. Why not just use an eReader?

eReader? Blasphemy! Oh the terror….the HORROR!

Right?

When I see people using eReaders, I am rarely seeing people read. Playing games and surfing the Internet is mostly what I see when look around. If the whole idea behind an eReader is to read, then you think you would see a lot more people doing that instead of playing Angry Birds. Granted, I have nothing against technology, my iPod Touch is never far from my grasp and our iPad (which my husband and I share) is excellent for work and doing crossword puzzles. When I think of buying my niece an eReader I get the sneaking suspicion that she would not be using it just for reading, if I am lucky enough to have her using it for reading at all.

However, I am willing to acknowledge the fact that she has a point. I have almost no doubt in my mind that if I live to a ripe old age I will see the end of print, newspapers and books will be a relic as handy in modern society as a gramophone is today. But my books! I feel like reading is an active thing, a living thing that has a power over me. The spicy smell, the weight, the sound pages make when you are reading at a frantic pace to see what happens next is all part of the experience. Used book in particular show their use and their love, I guess books for me are more like pieces of art. Take away that experience and you are left a cold device that sucks up energy, could die if not properly charged (and if this happened during a particularly intense part of a story it would most likely in my case end up shattered against a wall) and will become obsolete when the newest model comes out.

There is a part of me that also sees the good in an eReader though. When you don’t print paper you are not cutting down trees. I try to be eco-minded; we have compost bin, recycle regularly, grow our own herbs and vegetable, buy energy star rated appliances and use the stupid lightbulbs that are good for the environment if not our eyes. Even part my business is based on sustainable ways to clean your home without waste, but I just hate the idea of giving up my books.

So here I am, sitting in a room surrounded by books debating on abandoning their sweet, therapeutic texture to try something cold and sterile that is the future. Can you be nostalgic for something that is still around? I am.