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Books– The Next Endangered Species?

Yesterday, the warm afternoon breeze held a hint of summer. It whispered in my ear, prodding me to grab my handbag and say a quick good-bye to my family. I slipped out the door and into the car. I wasn’t escaping to the outdoors on that beautiful day; I was escaping to the bookstore.

The bookstore and I have an intimate relationship. Some of you will scoff and say, “A person can’t have a relationship with a place.” Well, a bookstore isn’t simply a brick and mortar building. It’s a place where books reside. Many of the books have an air about them that’s so palpable, they seem to breath. Of course, there are those books that are nothing more than pulp and ink and one can only hope for their demise.

People work there, and shop there, and browse there; they take what they need from the books like a plant taking water from the earth. And all these things combine to make an atmosphere that can only be found in a store that houses books. This is the place I have a relationship with. It’s the place I spent much of my young adult life.

After I had kids the relationship changed. I spent many enjoyable (and a few unenjoyable) hours in the children’s section; I never seemed to make it over to grown-up fiction. My time for reading had vanished, unnoticed in the busyness that became my life.

It wasn’t until last summer, after many years apart, I resumed my relationship with the bookstore. Every few months, it calls to me, and I steal away filled with anticipation. I love losing myself among the shelves while time stands still. My eyes feast on the myriad of colors, sizes and words that define each book and make each unique among its many siblings. I peruse the shelves, pulling out anything that catches my eye. I always make sure to go over the bottom shelf thoroughly in an effort to make up for the unfair disadvantage of being housed in that location.

Sometimes, I find “the book” right away. Other times, two or three vie for my affections. I limit myself to purchasing one. If I have two books beckoning to me, I may not be strong enough to resist the temptation to read them both, thus digging a hole of backwork that will take me a week to climb out of.

I buy my book and head home in time to make dinner. But the experience doesn’t end at the bookstore doors. It’s just begun. There’s the sweetness of anticipation. I know that later, I’ll curl up in my favorite rocker, or sit on creaky glider on the patio, and lose myself as I read.

Something happened recently that filled me with foreboding, and made me wonder if my relationship with the bookstore was in danger. I was sitting with other parents in the lounge during basketball practice. I was the only one in the room with a print book. Everyone else was engaged with an electronic device. For a moment, I felt like a dinosaur that had stumbled from its place in the museum exhibit. Then I was struck with a chilling thought: “Are print books an endangered species?”

“History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”– Mark Twain

Of course, nobody can predict the fate of print books, but I find myself thinking back to the days of vinyl music— albums and single records. It’s not the same situation, nor were the stakes as high, but looking back may give us some perspective.

Beatles album cover

OMG. Paul’s not wearing socks. He must be dead.

You’d buy the album for its music, but an album was more than music. For some, the covers and liner notes were amazing  works of art. They became a genre on their own. In fact, since 1964 there has been a Grammy Award for Best Liner Notes. If you have no idea what an album cover or liner note is, I think maybe the point of the discussion is hidden in there somewhere.

When CD’s came along, their tiny format made cover art and liner notes seemed laughable next to the grandeur of an album’s. But in time, the music industry crafted their own style of CD liner notes and covers. The liner notes and covers of old were forgotten. It seemed that nothing had been lost.

But we’ve face another paradigm shift in music. It’s modern format is electronic; CD’s are becoming obsolete and the need for physical packaging is rapidly dwindling. And the internet and Youtube are replacing liner notes and cover art. And it doesn’t seem to be such a big deal. I wonder if, in reality, it’s a much bigger deal than we realize.

I’ve never read an e-book. Who knows? Maybe it will be just as enjoyable reading a Nook out on the glider. And bedtime stories read from i-Pads will gently erase memories of printed books. But I’m not sure if any place can take the place of a bookstore.

mom reading ipad baby

A bedtime story.

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15 comments on “Books– The Next Endangered Species?

  1. I refuse to get an ereader. Yes, I know they’re convenient and modern and all those things I’m told I’m supposed to love about them, but I like my books in my hands, turning the pages myself. I love spending hours browsing in a bookstore and maybe dog-earring a page now and then to come back to…

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    • I agree, Abby. I used to love going to the “record store” too. Actually, I’m sounding like a pessimist, but I think books are here to stay. After all, they’ve been around this long…

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  2. Nothing can replace a real book. There’s nothing like actually holding the book in your hand, and flipping through the pages. Although I do have a few ebooks on my laptop, it’s for emergencies only.

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  3. Way back, probably 15 years ago when I was a Corporate American, I actually started using eBooks though at the time they weren’t known as such.

    I was a technical guy at customer locations and found that in order to do my job I needed several manuals covering several products. Many of my colleagues literally had library shelves installed in their homes to keep everything organized. I, however, discovered that my company not only printed their manuals, but also published them electronically on CDs in about three different formats (only one of which was PDF) and if I installed the correct software and brought along a couple of dozen CDs I had all the reference material I needed.

    I’ve found that for me, personally, for reference material, I like eBooks better. However, I still read for enjoyment and much prefer a real books for pleasure reading.

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    • I know I was very happy the day we got rid of the zillions of manuals you had. I love the eBooks for that.

      Have you ever read a “regular” book on an eReader? I’d been interested in experiencing it.

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  4. I like to see the progress of a bookmarker in the book as I read a book. You cant do that with an e-reader. But I use a nook for work, it has all my boring regulations, standards and stuff in it. Much easier than having a big box of books, all in 8 point font.

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    • I’ll bet an eReader for text books is great too. No heavy back breaking book bag or back pack to mess with.

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      • No more having to wrap books in paper bags. Though my kids didnt have to do that and they are now in their late 30’s.

        Actually, with text books in middle and high school the use of e-texts would be good, faster cycling of books and less expense to districts.

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  5. Last year my husband bought me an iPad as a combination Christmas/birthday gift since my birthday is 2 weeks after Christmas plus and iPad is expensive. Besides the convenience of having email right there, without the back breaking computer to carry around. I, like you, lost the time to read when my kids were small. In my younger days I spent a lot of time at the library, rather than bookstores. I can remember so many summers I would walk down the street, plant myself in the library, take a few books out and plant myself next to a lilac bush and read for hours. At this point in my life, I have all the time in the world to read and absolutely love it. But…….now that I have the iPad, when I’m at home I read the iPad, when I travel I bring a book or 2. There have and still are times I’m reading 3-4 different books at one time so this is when the ebooks are my pal. My husband and I have gotten to the point that we have no more room for books in our home so I just recently went through them and gave a box full to my sister-in-law to read and when she’s done they are going to my daughter-in-law, since we all like the same authors. When they’re both done reading them, they will go to the assisted living place my father-in-law just moved into. But for the sake of space, I love my iPad.

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    • Thanks, Judy. You’ve given me hope that the two can coexist peacefully.

      It’s also nice to hear that you got back into reading. I know many women who just couldn’t seem to after their kids had grown.

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  6. I guess I’m bi-bookual. I love a real book but I also enjoy my Kindle Fire. I switch back and forth. I never thought about children’s books in electronic format. That seems wrong. :(

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  7. Like Lorna, I am bi-bookual. I got a kindle so I could access twitter, blogs, email on holiday for free, and my eyes had started to hurt reading my iphone. But them I read a couple of books on it, and it’s great that it syncs with your phone so that if your in the post office queue then you can read a few pages of your book. I still read books that I want to keep, almost as ornaments on my bookshelves. i quite like the sliding scale at the bottom which tells you how much percent of the book you have read! And I read ebooks quicker as you can adjust font size and words per line to suit your eyes.

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