January 21, 2010

I pledge allegiance…to the book

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 10:16 pm

What do we think about this?

On the one hand, I’m all, Yay! I love books. The beauty of the cover, the smell, the blah blah blah, you’ve seen this list before, except right now I want to go back and delete the blah blah part because something in me shrinks from being even passingly irreverent about the great thing that is Book.

Not for me is or will ever be an e reader, although I have dear friends and voracious readers (writers, too) who now swear by theirs.

So you’d think I’d be all over a planned, concerted effort to keep books alive.

But another part of me thinks, isn’t such a thing the last gasp of the dying? If you have to tell people to do something–worse, make them promise to do it–isn’t the battle over before it’s even begun?

Buy American didn’t work.

Prevailing upon people’s consciouses, or values, or even their ideals doesn’t work. Efficiency, economics, and convenience will usually trump.

Won’t they?

Parents who plead with their kids to stay away from that super cool guy because he isn’t good for them turn super cool into a totally must have.

(That one may not be related. Feels like it is. But maybe not.)

In a real capitalistic world, it’s the best thing that wins out. Best can be defined in a lot of ways, according to many dimensions, economics being one.

But I don’t think it’s the only one. And I also think that books have a lot going for them that no other medium has now, and possibly never will.

Maybe we should let print media stand on its own inherent value instead of asking people to do the right thing and make a big show of doing it.

Flipping through a food column in a magazine while you eat a sandwich is not the same as scrolling through a review on your Blackberry.

Laying a book on your bed spine up and always remembering what you were doing at the exact moment you made that book open to page 201 forevermore can’t happen with digital.

But I don’t know.

You’re reading my words on a screen now, after all.


  1. I am, and always will be, a lover of books — real, print, hold the cover and smell it books. If other people want their Kindles, more power to ‘em! But don’t take away my book, which is one of my greatest joys.

    Comment by Judy — January 21, 2010 @ 11:10 pm

  2. I agree, it sounds like a last gasp. You don’t have to tell me to pledge to read! I can’t even pack my books for my big move to a new city because I can’t decide which one I might read next…and god forbid it should be in a box when I want it! We avid readers are addicts and we don’t need anyone to remind us it’s time for the next fix.

    Comment by SapphireSavvy — January 22, 2010 @ 12:00 pm

  3. Interesting post, Jenny! My first impulse was to agree — much as I’m in love with my books (and nothing says I Love You more than spending thousands of dollars to move them to Alaska and back), that type of campaign does seem like an effort to save something already dying.

    But then I started thinking about grass roots movements in my lifetime — environmental awareness, breast cancer, child abuse — and how pink ribbons and recycling logos in store windows and all those little things helped raise awareness for issues that people didn’t pay much attention to previously. Maybe I’m comparing apples and oranges here, since books were previously popular and now are declining, as opposed to my examples above which were previously overlooked and then became more important.

    But it’s hard to let something you love die without a fight. Even if you’re destined to lose, maybe the fight is worth it.

    Comment by Lauren S — January 25, 2010 @ 1:30 pm

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