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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

In Praise of the Physical Book

I jumped on the digital book bandwagon wholeheartedly in 2008, when my husband-to-be gave me a Kindle for my birthday. Thank goodness, because we've moved around so much and books aren't easy to move, and I've had such long periods living with my stuff in storage (now being one of those times). If I didn't have the portability of ebooks, I would be reading much less.

But...

A physical book is such a magical object. No matter how cheap, a book doesn't have the same presence in the world as an anonymous table, for example. It's a physical artifact that can reach across time and give insights into other human beings as well as record information. It communicates with us profoundly after the most basic training. And of course, there's the possibility of pictures!

I've been feeling a little burned out from all the digitization lately, and then I went to a new writers group where they happened to be talking about the way staring at screens all day can ruin your eyesight. That decided me: in order to recharge, I would purchase and read an honest-to-God book that had already been edited by someone else, and just enjoy it.

I went last weekend to my local independent bookstore (which happens to be the beloved Quail Ridge -- amazing place!) and got Magnificence by Lydia Millet, an extraordinary writer I can't recommend enough. If I don't do a review of that book, it's only because I'm using it to get away from all those duties and just enjoy the act of reading, my chosen world. Just read it!

Behold the wonder of an actual book!
We saw some gadgets for sale in the store that accomplish with only the thumb what I'm doing here with thumb and pinky.

So, the dust jacket has that weird faux-skin feel you get from the new matte finish. It ooks me out a little, and I find myself holding the outside of the book by the rich yellow actual covers. They have that rough-smooth burlap texture you expect with an expensive hardcover. The spine is tight and resistant to opening, so the book demands to be touched in order to stay open. The pages have a razor-sharp edges that are already softening in this humid environment, and the letters stand out crisply from the the light creme-colored pages. The fragrance, typical to new books, must be actively sought out. When you do, you'll be welcomed with the fresh, sweet odors of the ink and glue and the potential for countless years of loving use.

New book bliss.

What type of book appreciator are you? I'm definitely a "cherisher." Find out here.