Or whatever you call the rearranging of electrons on hard drives.
About a week ago I was at the thrift store, when I saw something a little chilling. Out front, next to a pile of forlorn $5 TVs was a bin of ten cent books. By bin I mean recycling bin, long and gray and dirty, with the books piled high with no thought or arrangement. Maybe to somebody this was a treasure hunt, provided you didn’t mind standing out in hot muggy weather. For me, it was something to glance at briefly, then retreat to the safety of the air conditioning within.
I appreciate moments like this one, little reminders to take a step back and reassess my feelings about books. The last physical book I bought was less than a few weeks ago and it was, predictably, a fractal book (Even now that the book is done I seem to be gathering materials for volume 2). But the last fiction book I purchased was probably six months ago. The last one I can remember anyway was one of the Scalzi books, and truth be known they are cheap enough as eBooks that I’ll probably go that route anyway.
Five years ago, or maybe even less, a bin full of 10 cent books would have been a treasure, something I would have dug through every inch (and with the dirt there may have been some actual digging). I’d come out with my stack of 10 books and happily hand over my dollar, knowing that if even one of the books was any good it’d be worth it.
It’s certainly not about the money. If anything I’m spending more on books than I ever was. And as much as I work with machines I don’t really trust them to be my permanent archive. But well, shocking as it may seem, most books I read I will only read once, and will probably never look at again.
This has always been true for me, if I really think about it. I can probably count all the books I’ve re-read on my fingers and toes, whereas the books I’ve read for the first time might not be accurately counted by the hairs on my body. Reading a book is a time consuming, and somewhat exhausting experience, and I want to read as many as I can while I’m still on this earth. I’m not saying I don’t have favorites, but few seem worth coming back to, even if I as a person have changed since my last reading. Maybe that says more about my reading, but it is what it is.
But nonetheless I used to love being surrounded by books, of feeling the weight of them (I’m not a book sniffer but I do love the look and feel). Now it’s all just “media” a delivery mechanism without importance one way or another. I feel like I’ve lost something, even as I’m reading more than I ever did before.
Maybe I need to take some time and read a real (and by real I mean physical) book again, one for pleasure and not research. And maybe in six months I’ll come to the same conclusion again. Gotta love cyclical thinking.
What’s the last physical book you ever purchased? How about read?