My boyfriend bought a Nook at Barnes & Noble the other day. Quite frankly it’s adorable. Small, black, with a muted magnetic screen that shows author caricatures when it’s asleep (Joseph Conrad – Jules Verne – Kurt Vonnegut – Oscar Wilde), snugly wrapped in a (sold-separately) navy and black leather cover, designed to look like a *real* book. Even the name is adorable. “Nook.” I like to say it. It makes me picture a cozy corner in a country cottage, with wicker furniture and golden sunlight streaming through the window. Maybe there’s a cat too.
Until recently I hadn’t given much thought to the whole e-books trend, and what it meant for the physical, real book. I was (and still am) pretty sure that the fate of the book will not be the fate of the CD, VHS, vinyl record of yore. Books have centuries more history to rest upon. They have a beauty of material and design that I don’t believe those other commodities ever attained. The Bookshelf is a cultural touchstone, more than a simple piece of furniture; something etched into our cultural consciousness, more than the Record Store or the CD Tower. But things like the Nook still make me nervous. Could the death of one of my favorite art forms reside, innocently and insidiously, in these adorable little e-readers?
Its weapons are its instantaneity, its convenience, and its weight (or lack thereof). It can be an entire bookshelf in your pocket. Paul was exploring its features, including the two million free texts available for download, and I occasionally “oohed” or “aahed.” In spite of myself.
Part of my goal in this blog is to remind people of the beauty of books, the physicality of them, the smell, the lived act of browsing through a space that stores them (rather than shuffling through a list of digitized titles). There is something magical about buying a used book and seeing the pencil markings of past users, or holding a hundred-year-old tome and marveling at the fact that the library let you check out what is clearly an artifact. Kind of an armchair activism- and incidentally, I’m picturing a giant leather armchair in a dark old library with high ceilings and oak accents, in a mansion. Maybe with a fireplace.
I hope it sticks.