I’m a techie. There: I said it. I love my gadgets and have admittedly been caught shedding tears over the perceived brilliance of some pieces of software. I own, or have owned dozens upon dozens of “quality Apple products”, dating back to the time I was in the fifth grade. I’ve spent thousands of dollars doing whatever I could to stay on the bleeding edge of technological revolutions and breakthroughs. But I’ve never once thrown out, or replaced a book.
To me, there is something absolutely sacred about books. I’m not a big reader by anyone’s imagination, but there is some intangible quality about books that make them so special. Having said that, perhaps it is the fact that they are tangible that makes them so important. You can touch the words. You can physically feel somebody else’s thoughts and insights. The glowing phosphors of a computer screen can be turned on and off in an instant, making any fleeting observation unimportant. But a book: books are forever.
My bias towards the published, written word was crystallized – even to myself – this past Christmas. When my “good buddy” Steve Jobs passed away, I was moved to read the Walter Isaacson biography, despite it’s impressive weight and length. Every night, before turning out the lights, I’d read carefully remove he dust jacket, open the pages just wide enough so that I could see from margin to margin, and carefully read each word. When it was time for bed, I’d delicately fold the dust cover back in place and return the book to the protective safety of the nightstand. Midway through the book, I purchased the same title on my wife’s new iPad. I never opened the book again.
I read the balance of the text on my wife’s iPad. Not because it was better or more fun or somehow more interesting, but for the simple reason that if the iPad broke, I wouldn’t think twice about replacing it. The book must remain in pristine condition, whereas the iPad’s lifespan was of no concern.
Technology has an established and accepted lifespan in my world. Books and text do not. I’ve archived my entire University career in boxes and am actively archiving courses from this programme as well. I don’t know that they’ll ever be of use to anyone, but if I took the time to write it out on paper, it must have been something worth holding onto.
Eric, very interesting post. I have never thrown out a book, whether it be one I bought for pleasure, or a text book, I just cannot do it. There is this unexplained attachment.
Your post was very well-written. I am also a huge fan of Steve Jobs and everything Mac. The day Jobs passed away I admittedly watched his Stanford Commencement Speech 2005 on YouTube at least five times. I even printed out a text version of the speech so that I could put it in my technology file at work.