Friday, December 5, 2008


I know we've been hearing about the death of the book for years, but I still lust after volumes, cloth, paper, big, boggy and old, with tattered yellow pages, svelte and new with a shiny cover, I love to hold them in my hands, open and smell their fragrance, turn their pages with a clip or a lingering hand. I love, I lust, I collect, I beg, borrow, and (forgetfully) steal (fail to return a much-loved volume to a generous lender).

My home is rich and weighted down with books: they beckon from every room, shelves heaped high, tottering, stacked on rumpled duvets, side tables, spilling onto rugs and floors, getting lost, pages splayed under beds.

Listen to Shelagh Rogers, host of "The Next Chapter" airing Saturdays on CBC at 3 p.m.

"It's like opening a bottle of wine and pulling the cork out. I crack the book, I crack the back, I crack the spine, and I love the smell that comes out... I can go and read it under a tree, or on the beach, or on a ferry, or in my room. It's a link to the past, holding this object in your hands."

Here's why you will never see me (or Shelagh Rogers I trust) reading a classic or the next best latest IT book on on my iphone (don't have one) or blackberry (don't possess one) or some device made for same, recommended by Oprah in her "That's Great" feature.

For Chanukah, give me books, books, and more books. My jewels. The new Bolano perhaps in a paperback set, a beautiful old illustrated Dickens, someone new you think I would love. Surprise me...with a book.

So let's celebrate the book in all its sensuality.

Read, read, read.



1 comment:

Leo said...

I love books too. They are, thus far, the most efficient means of transporting stories, poems and information in a format that is easy on the eyes and on the arms.

My house is loaded with them. English ones, French ones. There must be close to a thousand books in our home office alone - novels, reference books, graphic novels, picture books, interview books, etc. There are so many, that I really must go to IKEA and buy some shelf extensions to make room for the ones spilling onto the floor. And once that section is filled, I will have to purchase more shelving. I just hope the floor of the house doesn't collapse.

But there are changes afoot in the book industry. Both Amazon and Sony have electronic readers for sale with screen technology of such sophistication it mimics the contrast characteristics of an actual book. This is intriguing to me for one reason - travel. When I hop a plane to go somewhere for vacation, weight is a key element now in ensuring you don't get dinged for extra charges. If I can download the books I want to read into one, slim, light device, rather than lugging the physical copies with me, so much the better.

And if the issue of ease of reading is solved via such devices, then why not distribute the books electronically? It would save a lot of trees, sustainably harvested or not. It might even allow the publishers to become more efficient, allowing them to sell books direct to the public rather than having to rely on the vagaries of bookstores and distributors.

And last, but certainly not least, it might even allow the publishers to sell books from their backlist that have gone out of print years or decades ago, and would cost too much to re-issue.

I would certainly miss the casual browsing I do in bookstores now. It is a visceral experience that I cannot duplicate by logging into the Amazon or Chapters web portals. But if readers and writers want books to survive, we need to address such issues head on.