I thought you should know there is nothing quite like the smell of an old book.
I was in a store today called Nell Hill’s that was overflowing with them. They were all from the same old library, complete with stamped cards inside their slots. I paused every few minutes to gently tip one forward from its row, like a soldier out of line. I cradled him and ran my hands slowly over his spine and worn cover. Then I opened him up, lifted him slowly to my face and inhaled deeply. I absorbed the words by osmosis and smelled the souls of a thousand kindred spirits. It felt like coming home.
I wondered where the book had been. Whose knapsack he had traveled in. How many hands had touched him. Who had fingered his yellowed pages while tucked in bed, or hunched over a desk, or sitting on a bench in the park. How many miles had he traveled, what exotic places had he seen, had he unwillingly been taken into someone’s bathroom and suffered some indignities there?
My books are my best friends. I am proud to display them on my shelves. I can’t have enough of them. I know where each one resides and I can’t bear to part with any of them.
So many books…sometimes it seems to me that everything has already been said; all the world’s stories have already been told. Where does that leave me? Is there anything unique left to be written? Can I possibly create something new, interesting, and different?
Ultimately Kindle, Nook, & Associates— you are far too impersonal for the likes of me. You don’t have a scent. You lack substance. You’re too mechanical. You’re not real. You haven’t got a history I can feel, smell, and touch. I can’t put bookplates on you. I can’t lend you to friends and get you back with a sweet note tucked inside. I can’t press flowers between your pages or stack you in towering heaps on my bedside table. When and if I write my masterpiece, I don’t want it to be available exclusively by download. I want it to be concrete. I want it to rest in a tall pile on your nightstand, nestled between classics like To Kill A Mockingbird and Leaves of Grass.
Therefore, Kindle, I cannot and will never love you.