The power of the pen

I have a long-standing love affair with books.

Bookstores put me into a peaceful, happy state as I run my fingers across the spines of classics and new favorites, touch the paper, and take in the smell of the ink on the page. I like the plots, the twists, the font and design decisions, the things you expected and didn’t expect. I love novels, English lit, and learning, either from fictional characters or real life ones. And I fell in love with books and story a long time ago, when I was just a child and my brother and I would sit on either side of my mom as she read to us from a set of Reader’s Digest classics. I devoured Gone with the Wind in sixth grade. I read Wuthering Heights in junior high and declared I’d never read it again (I haven’t). If I find a writer I like, I try to read his or her entire catalog. Writing is one of the ways I best express myself and I immerse myself in it sometimes. The bookshelves in my house are overflowing, but still I buy more books and guard them like cherished friends.

But it’s come to my attention that I’m in a minority when it comes to reading and books. At a recent focus group, a teen told me she hated the smell of ink on the page (gasp!) and another told me that no one really read books or magazines anymore; online was the way to go. I may be the one person who is kind of sad to see the invasion of Kindles and ereaders, because I treasure the weight of a book in my hand when I’m curled up next to the fireplace whiling away a weekend afternoon. I’m not saying that I don’t read things on the Internet or that I’d never use a Kindle or iPad or any such device. Chances are, that’s the way publishing is going and as an editor, I believe in providing content in the format your audience wants it. And I do see the advantages.

But my books are like old friends. When I see my volume of three of Jane Austen’s books, I remember reading Pride and Prejudice as a teen and the old hardbound copy of that same book we found in my grandma’s house after she’d passed away. I fancy it once belonged to my great aunt, who my mom says I remind her of, and I feel a kinship I really didn’t get to have before cancer took her life. I think of those family bonding moments when I see any Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I remember Anna Quindlen’s Black and Blue and falling in love with writing again. I remember emotions expressed so well in books that they brought me to tears—grief, loss, that first heartbreak, frustration, the loneliness and despair you feel when someone you love doesn’t want to have anything to do with you, says you aren’t good enough, or forgets important things about you.

And while I may one day be carrying some sort of book-reading technology onto a plane at some point in the future rather than my customary three books, I won’t be leaving my old faithful friends behind. My house will always be filled with well-worn books.

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5 thoughts on “The power of the pen”

  1. No gadget can recreate the smell of pages, new or musty…or the surge of joy one feels when you walk through the door of a shop and see racks and stacks of books to peruse and savor. On the other hand, thanks to e-Readers, thousands of people have accessed my work, downloaded it, regardless of where they happen to live, no longer confined by physical boundaries.

    So I’m of two minds on the subject and certainly have sympathy for your point of view.

    Thanks for this…

  2. I also have conflicting views on e-Readers and accessing literature in different ways. I see the pros and cons of both and like both of them. I just don’t think I’ll personally ever fully give up my books—but I may supplement them with e-books, especially ones I don’t feel I need a physical copy of in my collection.

  3. I agree completely, though I really want a Kindle or some such. There are some books that you just need a copy of, but there are also those that once read, I don’t know what to do with them. I have found that libraries are good for this type of reading – if only they’d stock my kinds of books…

  4. I totally read a lady’s Kindle over her shoulder in the airport last weekend. It was cool, but not amazing. And she was a VERY slow reader.

    I do need to go through my books and purge a few of those that I bought but really have no desire to keep in the collection.

  5. I LOVE my Kindle. It is super convenient for someone who reads whenever they get the chance as the battery lasts all week and you can have it with you on a school bus, in the classroom, in bed, and even next to a fire.

    That said, there is one experience that just come up short. Sometimes I wander into my study (often mistaken for a guest bedroom) where my hodgepodge of bookcases are located. I have an entire afternoon (or even day!) free and I scan the spines of previously enjoyed titles looking to revisit something from the past.

    Scanning titles located on my Kindle or in the Kindle store just isn’t the same as standing around and finding two or three vintage titles filled with my own notes and smells, a dog ear from time to time, and who knows what old bookmark or other thing that has been pressed between the pages for dozen or so years.

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