Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The disappearance of books. And other stories.

About two years ago I became unable to buy another printed book.

Though four rooms in my six room apartment were lined floor to ceiling with bookshelves, and books were stacked double in each row, and stacked high on my night-table and high on the floor alongside my reading chair, and high alongside my side of the bed, I had run completely out of room.

I literally couldn't fit another book in my home.

My wife gave me a look every time I entered a bookstore or even if she saw me reading, as I do, "The New York Times Book Review."

It was the look you might give a loving pet when he brings home a dead animal from the woods out back. "You're not really going to bring that in here," she seemed to say.

So, dutifully, I went onto Amazon and bought a Kindle. Right now, in a little under two years, I have 231 books stored on it.

I like the Kindle. I like the convenience of ordering books in an instant. And I like, when I go on vacation, to not have to lug four or five books with me.

But I do miss the physicality of real books. Of holding them in my hands. Of beautiful covers. And, one thing Kindle sucks at, of seeing pictures and reading maps and charts that add to whatever I'm reading.

I read an article in the "Times" yesterday that said actual book readership--despite proclamations of the apocalypse by one and all--was actually up not down.

When I decided to make the switch from physical books to electronic, I walked down to America's greatest book store and talked to a used book buyer called Seth Holmes. I told him I had about 4,000 books in my collection and was looking to sell. He said he'd send an appraiser, then send workmen to pack and remove.

I felt like I was standing on a very high diving board on a very hot day. I wanted to leap, but I couldn't quite bring myself to do it.

There's a lesson in all this, somehow.

That the things that are supposed to shake up the world and change it inexorably seldom do. 

And even old dyed-in-the-wool fuckers like me can change.

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