Getting back to my blog’s main purpose, after some shameless self promotion, I address an issue many people must face in this digital age. How do we convince them these new books aren’t books?
For example, what would you say to an alien who has just landed on Earth when asked where our history and traditions are kept? Well, of course you would go to a library and show them books, right? RIGHT? But what if the new electronic book craze leaves us with a world of no libraries like Fahrenheit 451. No ancient books showing pictures and writing of the world’s history. You won’t be able to see the age on the tattered pages or smell the breath of the author on the pages.
Barnes and Noble suggests that by the year 2015, digital book sales with either match that of paper books or surpass it completely. Now for tech geeks like my boyfriend that is a testament to our ability to adapt and change. But for me, it means that all of the things I adore about books is threatened.
While I understand and respect the uses and need of electronic books, I struggle every day to give up my old “purist” ways and get e-books instead. Did you know that scientists are now using that “old book smell” that we love so much to tell how decayed historical documents are? Usually they would just take samples of the paper, but you can tell the history of the book or document by its smell.
According to Perfumes: A Guide, there is a chemical in older paper closely related to vanillin that has been broken down over the years, “which is how divine providence has arranged for secondhand stores to smell like good quality vanilla absolute, subliminally stoking a hunger for knowledge in all of us.” The smell of old books is a gateway to our memories, taking us back to a different time and creating a bond between you and the book. These sniff experts go on to say that smelling is a direct experience, it can’t be recreated with sprays and imitation smells like this one attempting to make these digital hybrid into real books:
But we know the truth. That no matter how many realistic additions you add to the e-readers, you will never replace the feel, smell, and experience of a real book. It’s not some cop out that old fogies use to get out of changing. It’s about respecting the package the story comes in and how it affects your experience. I enjoy odd editions of books because of the personality that comes with it. Writing on the inside of the cover, underlining, notes in the margins, and that all too familiar musty book smell. There is also the flip side of a freshly pressed and wrapped book.
There is joy as a little kid, having mom or dad read a book and imagining the epic story unfold in your imagination. Once you learn to read yourself, holding the book in your hand, you become the master of the adventure about to be discovered. Each turn of the page, you wait in anticipation as you reach the bottom. When you finally get there, you flip the page so furiously that you get a paper cut or rip the page, but you don’t care. The story is too good to stop and worry about it.
To me, true readers never lose that joy while reading. When you take away the ability for the reader to be the master, you give up a fundamental right we have to do so. When you can ctrl F key words or at the flip of a screen go to the end of the book, the mystery of the story is lost. Yes, technically you can do that to a real book, but there are unwritten rule when it comes to reading a real book. One of them is that you never skip to the end of the book to find out what happens. Unless it’s one of those choose your own adventure, a true reader just doesn’t skip to the end, but stories in electronic form don’t keep to the reading code.
There is a code for reading. You may not think it’s important to the experience, but reading has an important place in the history of our species. It is why an alien would be in awe of the collection of vanilla scented, leather bound books that has documented our history since the beginning. It is the reason I have cardboard boxes full of memories and a dream to have bookshelves line an entire room in my future home.
My favorite author, publisher of both electronic AND print books states his claim about real books in the following quote, which I find to be insightful and comedic.
Regardless of what new technology graces the market, I know others will agree with me on one important point. As long as there are tree growing, there will always be people buying real books.