June 1, 2009

Books as Memories

The role of print media in my life and the industry's steady decline have been a frequent topic of recent conversation. Books have always had a central role in my education and entertainment, though the Internet has generally replaced the former as a reference, and I'd rather not see them replaced. E-book readers, like Amazon's Kindle, hold no interest for me; part of a book's experience is tactile and losing or damaging a book (5-35$) is less costly than a reader (150-400$). I prefer paperbacks because most fit nicely in the pocket of my jacket and I can lend them to a friend once finished (a practice Amazon discourages with its hardware and DRM choices). I've slowly developed a habit of underlining my favorite quotes, too, though I imagine that -- if it doesn't already -- it will soon exist in e-book readers as some form of tagging.

Despite my mostly digital life, I'm not ready to give up books. Even finished and housed on a shelf a book remains of admirable service, reminding me with its spine of the emotions and thoughts I experienced during its reading. I just finished Time, Love, Memory: A Great Biologist and His Quest for the Origins of Behavior and I've offered to lend it out several times with the hope that those who finish it will want to discuss its contents as much as I do, but if no one takes me up on my offer I'll still be able to glance at it and remember the trials of Benzer and his disciples.

I was walking in the West Village on my lunch and it struck me that books and buildings can be similar. Imagine a row of houses as books on a shelf, each façade an index of a wealth of experiences; though it might take the expertise of an architect or historian to access that story. Maybe that analogy is a stretch, but it was a nice thought to mull over in the sun.

No comments: