The Comfort of Books
We all know people who insist that there is nothing like holding a good, old-fashioned book in their hands. They swear that nothing compares to the heft, the feel, the companionability, the smell of a real book. I tend to agree with them.
But I also see the advantages of digital books. My e-books have come to the rescue on numerous occasions: stalled subway trains, long delays at the dentist or doctor’s office, travelling by plane.
And yet – there is something special about a physical book, as there is about crowded bookshelves, and browsing through a bookstore. Books offer a kind of comfort in their sheer presence.
Like many people, I have a particular love of old books. I have a very small collection that my mother, over forty years ago, had the foresight to buy from an old drug store in town that was closing. She also bought several glass pharmaceutical bottles – Lycopodium, Acacia, Digitalis – and other treasures from a bygone era that used to fill the tall wooden cupboards and glass cabinets there. But the books – those were the real gems. The covers alone gave them value as objects of beauty, as with Longfellow’s Evangeline, Poe’s Murder in the Rue Morgue, and Sir Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake.
I’ve googled some of those books and found that they’re not worth much, and several of them are literally falling apart. And yet they continue to give pleasure.
And whether I’m at the Strand bookstore in Manhattan, or at a garage sale in my home town, I’m always on the lookout for one of these books from another time.
And as I take out my wallet to make a purchase, I catch sight of my iphone and find comfort in the digital library that’s always at hand.