Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with audio books. They’re great for people with vision problems, folks with learning disabilities which make reading difficult, children who can’t read all that well on their own yet (though NOT to be substituted for learning to read more skillfully in due time!), anyone driving on a road trip of any length.
I’ll concede that there’s a place for electronic reading devices as well. They’re convenient for travel, as well as for people who are downsizing but don’t want to completely sacrifice their personal libraries. Additionally, ebooks are often available at significant cost savings over printed copies, and a growing number of out-of-print titles are being made available in electronic form. And friends assure me that it’s possible, even easy now, to bookmark, highlight, underline, and make notes in ebooks.
However, all that being said, I believe there is great value in “real,” physical books. There’s something mystical about the multi-sensory experience of holding a solid book, not only seeing the letters black on white, but smelling the paper and ink, hearing the whisper as you turn the pages, feeling the literal weight of words in your hand. Just glimpsing the titles on the shelves as I walk through a room carries a sense of reconnecting with friends, and can trigger a series of memories or a train of thought. It’s a wonder my tattered yellow-cover Little House books survived at all through a couple dozen readings by the shy, chubby little girl I was. The Harry Potter set will always stir emotions rooted in the time invested in the young woman we tried so hard to help, who left the books behind when she left us. I miss Diane, in whose shop we spent many hours the first few years we lived here, until she was forced by rising rent to close down. Was it my father or one of his five younger siblings who obviously left a sweating glass on the back cover of Moby Dick, inscribed to Daddy from his grandmother on his fifteenth birthday? And how I’d love to be a fly on the wall, listening in on a conversation between those authors who live next door to each other on my shelves: Tolkien and Lewis and Williams, talking with Chesterton and MacDonald and L’Engle – just imagine!