As ebook sales rise 116% from last years numbers, meatspace book sales have suffered a double digit loss – 11.3 percent – from last year. While I’m glad that there is a replacement for shelves full of books, I am sad to see the medium that sparked so much interest from a younger me fall.
I started reading at a young age. I have always had a love for words on paper that breed dreamscapes in my mind. In 7th grade, I was constantly in trouble for reading books during class. I often locked myself in my room for hours until I had finished a book. Unlike most kids my age, I would ride my BMX bike to the library and wander the stacks, soaking in that beautiful paper and ink smell until I found the perfect tale to take me to wonderland. I would then meander across the street to the park and read on the bench until it was time to go home.
I deployed to Iraq in August of 2006. Between combat patrols and during downtime on long missions, I would read. Libraries from across the United States would send boxes upon boxes of books to be distributed to the troops. Every building in our compound had some semblance of a library, be it a shelf or table full of books, or just boxes. Everyone was open to trade, borrow or take the books as they pleased. In my pack, I always had a paperback. They helped me escape my current situation and probably helped with some issues that bubbled up afterwards.
Don’t get me wrong. I love that people read these days. I’m surprised that people can get through entire books. But I really fear the loss of my beloved paper and ink smell, the true take-it-anywhere ability. I fear a loss of interest in paper books so severe that I’ll never be able to discover forgotten writings in a yard sale. I worry that my kids won’t be able to ride their bikes to a public library and chase adventure through the canyons of imagery and human discourse the way I did.
Yesterday, I visited a public library in Athens, Alabama. It was housed in the first floor of a historical home which also serves as a museum. As I entered, the friendly librarian asked if I had any questions, and I inquired about the home, the town, and what “good entertainment” was. Amazon does not provide these interactions. My computer does not emit a smell that invokes the will to have my mind stolen and held for ransom by perfectly set letters and punctuation. Scrolling down does not cause me to take a deep breath, wondering what is coming next.
So I have a challenge for you, dearest reader. Go to the library, grab a book and sit in the aisle for at least half an hour and read. Savor the moment, allow yourself to be drawn in. Take that book home and snuggle up with it at night. Save my childhood and let our kids have a slice of it.