The handwriting is on the cyber wall: the future of books is here, and it’s not printed on paper. Bookstores of all sizes and selection are shaking in the shadows as Kindles, Nooks, iPads, smart phones, etc. etc. march into the market square to the din of cheering crowds!
I’ve retreated to my spare room where I crouch behind shelves of old favorites and fling out my weapons at the cyber newcomers—pages read from Dickens, Thoreau, Hugo, and Tolstoy. Where would we be without Dickens?!: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times!”
My barricade is teetering. “It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness!” I knew I would be defeated before I began. Like the libraries that have become archival storage museums and electronic data bases for the New York Times and People magazine, I know “resistance is futile.” My voice is growing weak: “It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness!”
I’m fairly certain my grandchildren will read most of their stories from an electronic device. They may never experience sitting among bookshelves in a brightly colored children’s section while a lady reads to them:
“There was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid. He was fat and bunchy, as a rabbit should be; his coat was spotted brown and white, he had real thread whiskers, and his ears were lined with pink sateen.”
Will they really miss out if they snuggle on my lap in a large rocker while I read from a screen? It’s the magic of the words that matters—not the delivery system. Still, I relate to the keepers of the library at Alexandria who must have watched in tearful despair as it burned! I offer their ghosts a moment of silence while the ashes of great words fall around us.
So what will I do with my lovingly kept books—the old fashioned kind where you can turn the page and not have to worry about sun reflection—the kind I could carry between my teeth to the branches of a tree and not worry about dropping a valuable piece of electronics—the kind that (with seven others) took up most of the room at my feet while travelling?
I will not be trucking off my own cherished favorites anytime soon—especially the leather bound classics I inherited from my granddad—but all the children’s stories that I’ve squirreled away with the visions of a hobbit land in my backyard—the stories of Heidi, a Secret Garden, a horse named Black Beauty, a dog named Buck, and many, many others—these I’ve come to admit will probably not receive the use I imagined.
Part of me is silently screaming: “it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair!” The practical (sometimes annoying) part, is facing reality bravely, though my knees tremble.
So what to do?
1. Find my beloved books a better home where children and others can hear the stories before it’s too late. Options include: donating to shelters or a thrift store, hosting a yard sale, or selling them on ebay.
2. For old paperbacks that just take up space, I might use the pages to cover a cork bulletin board, hodgepodge a square vase, or wallpaper the wall in front of the guest toilet. Really, I might.
3. Dated text books are also great to hallow out and create hidden cavities. I’ve wrapped a video game disguised in one before. My son’s despair turned to joy when he realized he was not getting another book! (Sadly, he does not take after his mom.)
4. A décor idea is to paint the spines of old books the same color, or cover them with heavy paper and tie a handful together with string or a ribbon for the corner of a shelf. (Think giraffe print paper with a brown ribbon.) I recently saw stacks of similar books selling for $19 – $99!
So I am sorting, caressing, and sadly saying good-byes. Whispering promises that they will still be valued, perhaps loved.
And my conflicted soul is lamenting: “we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”