The Results Are In

And the overwhelming response here at Balsbaugh7 was that people feel sick to their stomach at the thought of losing that old book smell.

So what is it about the physical book that makes it so important to Tao of Reading?

Is it mere "sentimentality" or "nostalgia" as one commenter suggests? Or is there something more?


Janine the Bean said...

There is something more than sentimentality. Definitely something more. A few thoughts...

The physical, sensual act of turning through the pages, finding old bookmarks and newspaper bits from times past, the chocolate smudge on page 103 (oops!), inscriptions when a book has been gifted to you, dog ears, scribble- in side notes, memories, wondering (if it's an old book) who has read it before you...

(I guess this may be mere sentimentality to some).

A shelf full of books in a house is an piece of art to me, can be a statement of who that person is, a look into what shapes them, what interests them, what they enjoy.

All this is lost when it's on your Kindle.

You can't just "delete" a real book like you can on your Kindle. If it doesn't grab you, you could pass it on, sell it, or donate it...find someone who might like it.

There is something very sensual about a book in hand. Maybe I'll write more on this as I think it over more.

The Six of Us said...

Beautifully said, Janine. Really beautiful. I agree.

I'll come back and write more later. I still think sentimentality is being turned into a negative or dismissive word and I am unsure if it should be.

Give me a good definition of what you mean by the word.

Jenna said...

I don't like the smell of *old* books, but I love the feel of a book. I love the changing thickness of the pages on my left and right as I make headway. I love having a stack of books on my nightstand...until it gets to be to be ridiculously cluttered.

I hate how dry my eyes feel after I look at a screen too long. Also, I'm going to blame screens for memory loss. While I'm at it, I'd like to blame screens for cancer.

JPB said...

In my opinion, Janine is getting it absolutely right. This is wrapped up with the sensualism of the universe (in the Karmazovian sense) and the physical act of reading a book.

In fact, now that I think about it, I once took about a hundred photos of a page of an old book because of the slanting light that fell against it and revealed its fibers and grain.

Books are more that information delivery systems.

The Six of Us said...

First of all, is that YOUR attic? COOL!

JPB said...

Not my attic. My photo though. I'm going there again this weekend.

The Six of Us said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Six of Us said...

I hesitate to comment because I agree fully with your and Janine's argument. I don't even like buying books from Amazon, to be honest, because something is even lost when the search for a book is taken away. And as for the physical book itself, many a time have I been made fun of for my emotional connection to books.

However, there are those who have never felt this...and probably never will. Besides what they already lose in missing out on that connection with the physical book, will they lose more in reading on a kindle? Yet there are those who still devour books and their content without a this deeper feeling. For those, will it make a difference?

Of course, that said, there are many, many other arguments which would convince me that there is more bad than good in the kindle; as has already been discussed.

I think my focus in this matter would be not to pick on one small piece of technology, but on Technocism ( itself. The idea that technology is always an improvement.

The arguments made are true and could be made in the same way against e-mail, books on tape, internet shopping, internet dating :), blogging, etc.

I am more committed now to step back from the things that have already become familiar for their convenience and reevaluate what I have lost.

maybe I will have more thoughts after jury duty.

JPB said...

It's a very good point, Jodi. I am not a neo-Luddite. But neither am I a technocrat or a proponent of "Technicism" (though I can't quite figure out what that words means). I guess what I'm looking for is a serious engagement with issues of technology and the human person.


It's easier to scatter a bunch of books around and flick back and forth between them than it is to whizz through your Kindle in search of other open books.

It's also handier to underline a book, and to write with a pen affords greater freedom than you get with the Kindle.

Pictures are better in books.

It's easier to lend a book than a Kindle.

It's cheaper to buy second hand books than Kindle copies.

Other people's annotations are preserved in second hand books.

Kindles are basically third-rate rubbish.

Janine the Bean said...

Lately I've been thinking a lot about letter-writing. In particular, I've thought about the fact that I love to look back at old letters and see how life has changed, how people have changed, marvel in the past and what was happening then.

Now, have I actually picked up pen and paper and written a letter?

Well, I guess I've written to Emily...

But that aside, I miss getting letters. I know it's certainly not the fastest way to fill people in on what's going on in your life, BUT, I would like to exchange letters with someone.

Looking back at old letters I've kept, I think to myself, "I won't have this if I don't write to people." Of course, it means someone has to be willing to write back to you.

I just don't want to lose it!

All the e-mails can just be lost, deleted, cleaned out of the trash. Gone forever. Unless you print them...but even then it's just not the same.

Again, it's the feel of a letter, the way your eyes meet the words.

Okay, I'm writing a letter this week.

JPB said...

I've had the same thought a hundred times.

Josh said...

Compromise for the sake of ending an argument (as if that was a virtue in it's own right) is not something I engage in. Nor is staking out a third position to simply start new arguments a practice I want to pursue. However, this conversation of "Kindle v. Book" has stuck in my mind for some reason and I'd like to dig a little deeper.

Books are no more or less physical than kindles. A kindle will wear as books wear (there's that scratch from when I loaned it to the baby) though there's certainly less of it to wear and each kindle is much like the others.

Both are constructed, created, synthetic amalgams of physicality that we hold and manipulate and engage with. Is there a significant difference in the processes of paper making and plastic forming that raise pressed pulp above silicon wafer in the hierarchy of sensuality? If so, is that a preference or a quantitative gap?

And, as much as I like being reminded of my take on this book the last time I read it (my margin notes, my dogears, my underlining and highlighting) or the impressions made on that book by previous owners/readers, I'd also like to think freshly about it, spring at the book from where I stand now and not have my surprise attack spoiled by previous readings.

Caressing vellum, absorbing text, smelling leather and glue and wood and ink, snapping up new pages, mopping up splashed cereal-milk, all these things are beloved by me. But portability, ease of use, acquisition, disposal, and storage are also very valuable to me. Certainly, I would never seek to trade "ease of" for "caress" or "snap".... but.... I would like to distinguish between the textbooks and second-rate literature that I wish I never had to make room on my shelf for and those dear old volumes that have been with me for years.