I remember when the world changed.
UPS just dropped off my very first Kindle (a Kindle 2 if memory serves). I opened, and turned it on, and the world changed. From that point on the monthly trips to my local Barnes & Noble were a thing of the past. Wanted to read “A Dance with Dragons” the day it came out? Download it. Better yet. Pre-order it and it would be waiting for me when the book came out. Watching CNN and saw an interview with an author? Just download his book that night. No waiting. This is the 21st Century, right? No one waits.
The world permanently changed.
What followed was a succession of Kindles, then the iPad, and then the iPad 2, 3, Air, Mini, Pro. A whole book library that spanned 6 or more years that existed simply out there in the Cloud. Stuck between Amazon and Apple.
Years later — one night as I sat on the couch reading the next Star Wars novel tie-in on my iPad because I am Geek Eternal – I realized something. I missed the world the way it was.
I missed the heft of a hardcover book. The slick, glossy jacket. The binding. The paper. The way that paper smelled and the way each page felt when it turned. Most of all I missed the feeling of being surrounded by books. The comfort I felt deep down when I would look around my living room and see all of the books surrounding me.
This is not an argument where an outraged blogger tells you to throw your iPad in the trash, run over your Galaxy Tab with a truck and burn your Surface Pro in effigy. Digital books are here to stay and I am never going back to an era where I bought a physical copy of every single book. Digital books are too convenient and too portable to consider that, but I would argue that is time to re-introduce a limited selection of books, and the accompanying bookcase, into our homes.
Yes, books are stuff, and I can already here the counter-argument that the last thing anyone needs is more stuff. But a book is – or can be in the right hands – much more than just a Thing that Occupies Space and Collects Dust. A book is a conduit to the past and a dream of the future.
When you hold Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms” in your hands you are not just holding a two pieces of cardboard and 300 pages of paper. You are sharing a connection to one of English literature’s greatest authors, and to the events and authors that inspired him, and to the future authors who will be inspired by Hemingway. A physical book functions as a potent talisman and link to the artistic drive of every human. And does so in a way that no digital file or app or e-Reader can.
If a book is conduit to the past and the connection to the future, the bookcase is the door that opens that conduit. Think of a bookcase as a second bedroom where your dreams sleep. A bookcase is also a great opportunity to showcase your artistic preferences.
A devotee of 18th and 19th Century literature? Consider a heavy wood bookcase, finished in dark colors, lined with favorite works from Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens. Frame it with a wood rolling ladder to complete the old world feel.
Follower of all things science fiction? Perhaps shelves lined with Asimov and Heinlein books to the ceiling. Accessible with one of our stainless steel library ladders.
Have eclectic tastes that run from James Joyce to Tom Clancy? Go a little nuts and mix traditional, contemporary and modern styles in your library or den.
Make a bookcase reflection of the authors and the moments that inspire you. Make a bookcase a deliberate statement of belief. Then integrate those moments and those beliefs into your library.
I am reminded of The Great Gatsby. In a way technology has lead us down a path where we all could own physical books that we never read. But does that mean we are as false and callow as Gatsby and his unread library of books?
I have never liked the interpretation of that moment as a representation of Gatsby’s false nature. It rings true and resonates with the overall character, but perhaps Gatsby assembled those unread books for another people. Perhaps those books brought him comfort, some connection to humanity.
Maybe that is why he kept them. Maybe that is why we should all keep them.