Saturday, April 14, 2012

Books, Books, Books

How many of you have an e-book - a Kindle, a Nook or one of the other varieties out there?  I happen to have a Kindle.  One of the great things about these books is the built in dictionary.  I was just reading a book describing Vermont in the fall, when I came upon a word of doubtful usage.  It was the word zephyr and I was compelled to check out the subtleties of its meaning.  And it’s so easy.  You simply click the word in question and it instantly gives you a simple definition.  If your interest in things scholarly has not been sufficiently satisfied, click again and it gives you the full definition along with other meanings and alternate usages as well as the origins of the word.  It’s great!  But here’s the down side.  It’s a problem I’ve long had with dictionaries.  They are chock full of words!  Interesting and fascinating words.  Words you wish with all your heart you could recall at some appropriate time.  In this instance, following the word zephyr was the word Zeppelin: a German military man who in his retirement developed the lighter than air craft named after him.  And of course, after that was the word zeppelin, the lighter than air craft developed by a retired military man in Germany.  By this time I was so engrossed in the entire subject I got on the internet (yes, you can do that too with one of these digital wonders) and started reading up on airships.  Dirigibles, blimps, balloons - I was fascinated.  I can just imagine what it was like to fly in one.  And to crash in one, which happened pretty routinely in the early days.

Now whenever I think of Vermont in the fall I will envision it with a blimp lazily floating away in the distance.  Perhaps it will fall from view - quickly - and the entire forest, hundreds of acres, will suddenly be engulfed in a horrific fire ball.  Fire fighters will arrive from every direction.  Have you ever read about fire fighters?  There are books about that!  Check out “Young Men and Fire” by Norman Maclean.  

Well, as a result of this rather benign malady – this interest in words - it takes a very long time to read a book.  There’s just no telling where I’ll end up.  (By the way, have you heard Encyclopedia Britannica will no longer publish a hard copy?  It is now only available online.) 

So beware if you are thinking about getting one of these e-books.  They are fraught with dangers of all sorts.  Like the simplicity of buying books.  It’s the easiest thing in the world.  Just click on one of the hundred million zillion books available and it’s yours!  The money is zapped out of your bank account so fast you don’t even notice it leaving.  (The blond I live with notices though!  I had to buy her a Nook to keep her distracted.)

Now some people would rather have a real book.  And I admit I have a certain fondness for the smell and feel of an old book.  Pages you can really dog-ear to mark a place.  The heft of the book is in itself an indication of the weightiness of the subject.  But there you go.  Who wants to tote a bunch of heavy books around all the time?  When I travel it is not unlikely for me to have six or eight books in my bag (one being a dictionary).  Now I have a single book that contains all the information of hundreds.  I wonder if in the distant past there was a resistance to bound books.  Do you suppose people once said, “The new books are nice and are easier to carry around but there’s just something about the feel and the beauty of a scroll.”
So, why books?  Why this enchantment with books?  For me, a book is tangible evidence of thought.  The book was written before it was ever set to print.  Imperfect though it may be, the book is the physical manifestation of a non-physical thought.  By it, ideas are passed along.  People long dead are still able to impress my mind.  There is nothing more real than a thought and there is nothing real that is more difficult to grasp. Books, or the words they are composed of, are merely symbols of thought.  The technology of books is simply a tool.  A tool, like all technology, that compensates for lack of skill or ability.  In this case, our inability to purely communicate one-to-another.  Perhaps digital books are a step towards the day when we will need them no more.  But for now, I’ve got to find out what’s going on in Vermont!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey, that is a really good blog! I am a little touchy about being the "blond I live with" but oh well, what can you say about a guy who is reading a book and ends up lost in the dictionary. I only leave my comments on this "anonomous" comment because it is too difficult to keep track of all of my passwords and user ids.
The reason I see his little purchases is that I have to balance the budget and make sure we have enough to pay for all of his toys!
I love him anyways! The Blond you live with.