Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Soul of Books, or Reading as a Way of Life

Part I: Falling Back Under a Stack

I'm seriously debating about getting one of the e-readers. I don't want an app that puts it on my phone or computer. I want something that is easy to read and compact. Phones and computers strain eyes because eyes weren't made to look straight at light; they were made to see light reflect of objects. That leaves the Kindle, nook, and Sony's/Borders' e-reader (whatever it's called).

I'm looking at these options because I realized that after law school and studying for the bar exam, I stopped reading. TV, Netflix, Wii, pretending to want to workout, and the heaviness of books have all fought on the side of Burnout over this last year. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde was the first sign that my joy of reading may still have some fight left in it, then Larry Burkett taught me about finances. Now I'm halfway through the overlong 3rd book of the Eragon/Inheritance series, Brisingr, I've started The Strategy-Focused Organization, and I'm looking forward to finishing Crazy Love. Now I'm like so many of those people who I always thought were big dorks, because I want reading to be a way of life for me and my family.

"A room without books is like a body without a soul."
- Cicero

Part II: Plastic or Paper?

I would argue that the best places on earth [inside from] nature are libraries and, even more so, used book stores. A great BBC series agrees with me: "Black Books."* It's the smell, the people, the cheap and cool books, and the knowledge that some juggernaut new-book store may take away their profit margin, but they will never take away their freedom [from copyright law]. It's because of stores like this that I will always buy books used when I can, use the library when I can't.

However, I have fallen for e-book readers. I love the ability to carry it everywhere and use it inconspicuously. I also love not having to strain my fingers to hold it upright when it is hardback and more than 700 pages (read "Brisingr" or "Harry Potter", etc.). Plus, I can get tons of books for free instead of borrowing them from friends and forgetting to give them back for months.

I've come to grips with the greatness of the plastic form of books, but many of my friends haven't. The fear is that they will destroy the souls of books. I find this argument to be lacking even if Cicero would agree. That's like saying the soul is not the soul without a body. I thought that's exactly what it is.

The soul of the book is in the story; it's in the magical world a few black blots of characters create when strung together. It's present whether paper or plastic. One only needs run his or her eyes across the lines and open the mind.

The souls of books are being destroyed, but it's not electronic versions of themselves. It's the shorter attention spans, it's reality TV, and it's an education system that is in shambles. That's where the war should be fought. Taking from Terminator Salvation, it may just be that the perfect weapon is half book, half electronic. Skynet is not e-readers.

Think about that as you decide where the soul of books lies and whether or not you will make reading a way of life.

* Where does the punctuation go when quoting media? Also, should TV shows be quoted or italicized?


  1. I have a sony e-reader and I love it. It's pretty cheap too.

  2. I've enjoyed my Kindle. I like paper better, but it's just a personal preference (and apparently an ability to carry an 800-page book without stress).

    btw I like used book stores too, except that authors get no part of that price. Not that I want to help the publishing companies, but it's good for authors to get some compensation to keep writing the next book.