When electronic book readers were first introduced, I scoffed, believing that nothing could replace the touch of paper and the musty smell of a well-aged book. I may have been wrong.
More and more of my technologically-savvy friends are reading their favorite books on a tablet computer or e-reader rather than on a page. I have refrained from purchasing one (I don’t even own a functional mp3 player), but I see their appeal.
Whenever I travel, my suitcase contains at least three books, my Bible, a novel, a journal, and often a non-fiction book. For car trips, the additional luggage may be excused as muscle building, but that many books could incur fees at many airlines. (Fortunately we rarely fly.) An e-reader would certainly lighten my bags.
Not only are they light, Kindle owners brag, e-readers bookmark their pages, do not irritate their eyes, and allow passages to be underlined.
I’m sure they are useful, but I’m sentimental. I like things that I can touch. I love that my sister inscribed a birthday wish on a book of Mary Oliver’s poems. Her well wishes are forever joined to that book in a way that cannot be duplicated by an email with a link to a free book.
I will miss these notes if the world forgoes bound paper, but even more, I will miss being able to learn about a person by glancing at their bookshelves.
As a nursing mother, I have been granted access to rooms typically closed to house guests. While modest, nursing covers cannot mute the conversations and footsteps that distract my little man, and thus, I often find myself in our host’s private offices and bedrooms. While my child eats, I scan the room, glancing at the decor, but mostly reading the book titles. Often I learn more about my hosts from looking at their bookshelves than I do from many mundane conversations.
For example, our evening church services are held at our pastor’s house, and his wife graciously allows me to nurse in her sewing room. Besides containing a sewing machine and fabric, this room has several shelves filled with books, most fitting into three broad categories. Most of the books were diet and health related, such as Our Maker’s Diet, The Zone Diet, and Uncommon Cures for Everyday Ailments. One shelf was laden with how-to-guides for beadworking, crochet, jewelry making, wreath weaving, and many other crafts. The rest of the books were Christian books, either romantic fiction or books applying the Bible to everyday life. I recall seeing The Five Love Languages and several John Piper books as well.
If this lady had purchased all of these titles as e-books, I would never had known that this woman’s crafting interests were so varied, nor would I know that she enjoys Catherine Marshall’s writing. What a loss! Without book shelves, how would I know if someone has a secret passion for reading the history of the Byzantine church or loves learning about astronomy? Many potential conversations will disappear with book jackets and leather bindings.
Cicero once said, “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” I mourn the day when our homes will be filled with soulless rooms, lacking windows into the minds of our hosts.