When I sit in a waiting room or stand in line, I often observe others. Once this has lost its novelty, I reach into my purse and pull out my preferred form of entertainment. Those around me do the same, and I become acutely aware that I am behind the times. They have tablets and e-readers. I have a book. A physical book.
I am not one to scorn technology; I am in top technological form: computers, software, cell phones, iPod and iPads are in my present and in my future. But my books are sacred momentos, capturing my past. I cannot bring myself to let go of them.
My room is small; nevertheless, I have accumulated a modestly impressive library. They are everywhere. I have tried to reduce their numbers in hopes of finding bookshelf room for the piles of books that litter my floor. Yet, my library diminished by only a dozen or so books; it was too hard to part with the rest. I have even given clothes to Goodwill to make closet room for books. Part of my reading experience is thumbing through pages, as weathered and dog-eared as they might be, and getting lost in the words. Staring at a screen brings headaches and is purposeful. Our tablet will not age the way a book will, with loose binding and a worn spine. Its screen might crack, or it might accumulate some chips and scuffs. It is not romantic to read from a beat-up tablet; an old book, however, gives the illusion it has had many illustrious travels that led it to its owner’s lap.
I look at my mismatched library and remember my past. I remember who gave me my battered copy of “Gone with the Wind.” I remember when I bought “The Great Gatsby” for an English class, and how a book I never expected to like became the most-read of my collection. My books are the stepping stones of my life, as capable of tracing my past or drawing up memories as a photograph. How could I bear to part with them, when it would feel like I am throwing away part of myself?
While I would like to think that physical print is not a dying form, I know I am fighting a losing battle. In an honors leadership class that required me to read a dozen novels, I read 10 of them in PDF form. I understand the convenience that digital books offer, for I have felt it myself. But when I read digital books, I remember less. The stories do not resonate with me. They blur together with the myriad of newspaper articles, blog posts, and Facebook statuses that flash across my computer screen all day. In digital print, these texts mean less to me.
Maybe I am like Gil Pender from “Midnight in Paris,” too consumed with the past to focus on the present and future. Logic says I should embrace this technology because it has a solid place in our culture. But I cannot yet do that. I do not disrespect those who choose to use it; I have been among them at times. But this is one area of my life where I cannot allow technology to make my library obsolete. My phone, my car and my computer may be as “smart” as they like, but I prefer my books to remain as they are, even if they are on my floor.
Lauren Creiman, Editor-in-Chief