Back in 2006, I became one of those annoying people that loved to read books. I didn’t have a choice, really. I was stuck in a country where cellphone technology was in its infancy, and I would often spend a significant part of my day sitting in a Humvee, or hanging out in a guard tower. Sure, there would be that rare moment where my life was in danger, and blah blah blah, but for the most part, there was literally nothing to do except for read. Or play Sudoku. A lot of people played Sudoku.
By the time I was back in the states, I was on my way to becoming a full-fledged bibliophile. Then at the ripe old age of twenty-seven, I started college. Out went the literary classics of the 19th Century; in came business, marketing, and law textbooks. By the time I graduated, I was burnt out. I never wanted to read another book again.
And for the next year, I didn’t.
Sure, I read things on the internet. Or short stories on my Kindle, or a magazine here and there. But for the most part, every read and unread novel on my bookshelf just sat there, collecting dust.
So, last week I decided to do something about it. There were several books on my bookshelf that I purchased back in my pre-college days, that I didn’t have much interest in reading anymore, (Sorry, Nietzsche); so I had the brilliant* (exaggerated for effect)* idea, of going to a used bookstore to trade any books I no longer wanted for books I did want.
So, after googling “used book stores Richmond”, I decided to go to the one that was closest to me, because I’m poor and gas is expensive.
Not five seconds after walking in, I loved it. There was Beatles’ memorabilia, Batman posters and an entire section dedicated to Charles Dickens. Was this heaven? No, this place was real. And there was something magical about it.
I spent thirty minutes browsing through classic literature, astronomy books, graphic novels and single issue comic books, before I realized what I thought was an half hour, was actually two hours.
I left with two books, store credit, and a smile from a pretty, white girl wearing a dashiki. Not a bad day for an overall horrible year.
In my car, however, I had a disturbing thought: Most of those books will never find a home. They’ll probably just rot away, never to be read again…or in some cases, never to be read for the first time. And it’s not because of a waning interest in reading, it’s because paper is in danger of becoming obsolete.
Obviously I’m not the first person to consider this to be a problem. I’m sure there are hundreds of articles on the dying paper industry…ironically, most of them were probably written for the internet.
Technology runs the world, or most of it, anyway. There isn’t anything you can’t do with a smart phone or a tablet nowadays. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking technology. I love science and what they can do with a phone the size of a playing card is truly remarkable.
My iPhone and the things it is capable of has blown me away: With a device that fits in my pocket, I can download music, read books, play games, pay bills, and hell, I even hooked up with someone I met on twitter! How cool is that? Thank you, Apple.
But for all it’s wonderful attributes, there are some things it cannot replace. There’s nothing like sitting outside, alone, with a book in your hands, while the wind turns the pages for you. It’s one of the more relaxing feelings in the world.
A book will never crash, die, or run out of style a year after you bought it. Through the magic of literature, you can escape to a world you’ve never been. You can live through the eyes of Doctor Watson, or follow Van Helsing as he tries to kill Dracula. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten my problems because I opened a book. Reading from a Kindle doesn’t give me that same satisfaction. Because ultimately, it’s not the same.
But, unfortunately, books will one day become obsolete. Maybe not in my lifetime, but it’s going to happen. The newspaper industry, for the most part, is already on its deathbed. Just like everything else, it has evolved to the internet. And if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that you can’t stop evolution.
And why would we want to? If it wasn’t for evolution, we wouldn’t be here. But that doesn’t mean that some things should be buried with the past, because sometimes, things from the past are just better.
Music, for instance; film, and even literature, have undoubtedly, hit their zenith. The zeitgeist of the 1960s saw an influx of music that have not been surpassed since. And to this day, younger generations are discovering Beatles’ records and falling in love with their music, just like I did, and just like my mom’s generation did. Hopefully, it will be a never ending cycle.
Sure, people aren’t exactly listening to their music on vinyl records anymore, but they’re listening. Why? Because more often than not, older is better.
Last week I purchased a book that was first published in England, 1985. This book has seen the world and it’s in excellent condition. And honestly, there’s nothing cooler than reading a book that probably has more stories than I do.