Bibliophile ~ A collector of books. An avid reader or book lover.
Okay, I admit it. My name is Marissa and I’m a book lover. They hold a special power in my life unlike anything else.
Books actually helped me choose my new home two years ago. The beautiful, ornate, wood floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in the living room made this house a “must have.” My husband understood that immediately when we opened the door and walked into the room for the first time. My “ooh, look at the bookshelves,” sigh caused a laugh and resigned eye-rolling.
We talked about the various other merits of the house for a few days: the huge yard, the wonderful wood deck, the hardwood floors, the large kitchen, and the renovated bedrooms. We discussed it all as if there was a decision to make, but we both knew the decision was a given,that the bookshelves were a “sign” and that this was the perfect house for us.We moved in a month later.
I unpacked boxes of books, loading them onto the shelves, starting in the middle. I suddenly realized that the double bookcases covering an entire wall of the living room were much larger than they looked. I only had enough books to fill four of the ten shelves. I made a mental note of the number of books I would need to fill-up the cases. Wow! Time to start buying more books! No happier thought than that ever occurs to a bibliophile!
Two years later I am a beloved customer of Quality Paperback Books, Barnes & Noble, Folio Society, and quite a few other book stores and publishers. I’m doing my part to stimulate the economy, keep literature alive, publishers publishing, and writers writing! I’ve made progress on filling the shelves and only four empty ones remain. Those should be filled by the end of the year.
I have more unread books than ones I’ve read on my shelves for the first time in my life, and I am buying books at a faster pace than I can read them. I am a voracious reader and owning so many books I haven’t yet read is an anomaly in my life, but it’s an anomaly I’m beginning to enjoy. The unread books are like fine chocolates waiting to be devoured when appetite demands. I love knowing that those mysterious sweets are there waiting for me.
Some co-workers were talking the other day, asking each other the imaginary-scenario question: What would you do if you won the lottery for a million dollars? I listened as they all talked about buying houses, yachts, new cars, huge HDTVs, and new computers. When they came to me, the answer was much simpler and more nerdy: I’d go to Barnes & Nobles and buy every book I wanted!
My co-workers looked at me as if I’d turned into a frog, declared this a terrible waste of lottery winnings, and responded with awe-struck gasps of…
“Why would you want all those books?”
“You know they have Nook and Kindle now, you don’t even have to buy real books like that anymore.”
Yes, I do know about Nook and Kindle. I understand that the world of books and publishing is changing dramatically in our lifetime. I hear the news stories, read the blog entries, and listen as the pundits declare an end to hard copy books. I’m listening.
I also realize that very few students need to go to a library, learn how to use an antiquated card catalog system, or pick up a hard copy encyclopedia. They are more likely to do all their research on the web, cite Wikipedia information in term papers, or purchase college essay papers from one of the many companies providing them online for $19.95. My children knew libraries, book stores, and hard copy research for school papers. My grandchildren will have no memory of a time before computers and the Internet.
I remember Windows 3.1, America Online in its great heyday, and the Internet when dial-up was the only access. But, I too am growing and changing with the times, and have made my own personal strides forward into the digital age. You can follow me on Twitter, read one of my several blogs, or view my work as an editor for the online magazine, Whippoorwill. I own three computers, all equipped with wireless access, and the new laptop I purchased came with Nook included. I’m listening to all the chatter about the end of books as we know them, but I don’t agree with the chatter. I am a true bibliophile, and, for a true bibliophile, nothing replaces a “real book.”
I may use online texts, search engines, Wikipedia, and even Nook, but none of these resources gives me the same joy and happiness as a traditionally published book. I will always prefer hard copy, printed and bound books. Books that smell of ink and paper, that sing with crisp pages, offer margins for notes, and can be gifted to others as something very personal and intimate. I love being able to return to the same beloved books again and again, rereading pages that hold important revelation or insight, opening to a favorite section and participating in the dialogue between writer and reader.
We are old friends taking time for a chat. Each book on my shelf is like a precious relationship, a voice and persona I am acquainted with, one that I know. The writer lives in those dry inky pages, is resurrected as I hold the book in my hands, listening to his voice flow from the pages. Old notes, highlighter marks, and red-ink underlines are reminders of our journey, of time we have shared on other lost days.
I willingly embrace the new mediums, resources, and tools available to writers, readers, and the world at large. However, as a book lover, a person in love with and addicted to true “hold-em-in-your-hand” books, I think it’s important to remember that change does not always equal demise.
The world is a big place. Traditional book publishing may go through deep changes during the present decade, but I believe the world contains many closet bibliophiles like me who will continue to love books, want books, need books, spend too much money on books … and keep trying to fill their bookshelves with assorted books, a source of sweet chocolates to be devoured at their leisure.ß
Reprinted from Whippoorwill: an Online Literary Journal, Spring 2011.