An Ode to Paper
Oh crisp pages of my book. You enhance any nook. I prize you beyond all goods as you sit on my shelf, so seductive, so distinguished. I cannot wait to read. As I open, you smell like autumn, the warmth of a fire, and a bit like cigarettes. You smell like the comforts of all mankind. I want that smell during all my most vulnerable moments. It comforts me. It makes me remember that there is in fact, always a home.
Oh ipad, nook, kindle or les prestigious electric reader, you have committed murder most fowl. You have no smell to bring me back from my hopeless wanderings. You have little breath at all. Tapping rather than turning, it all becomes too easy. You save trees? But, what have you killed? You have taken my dreams, my quiet moments and those of writers everywhere who no longer have the initial touch, the striking feeling, the density and happy hindrance of holding their favorite book.
I remember it all quite clearly, sore shoulders and the over use of book lights. Large rooms with wall-to-wall manuscripts, buildings devoted to these now meaningless objects. I remember feeling like a misguided Nicolas Cage as I translated the secret code of the library in order to find my favorite. Upon finding it, I would, to my great amusement, usually find more related material – a fact I attributed to a magical wizard and never to precise librarians. I would stuff my shoulder bag and walk through the exit with eyes shifting left and right as if I had just committed a crime. How could I really be allowed to take all these books? I would give each shoulder 5 minutes on my 10-minute walk back to my dormitory. It hurt, but I kept on chugging. Once home, I would smile as I looked through my spoils.
A few finals, heartaches, crazy roommates, showerless days and a corrupted consciousness later, I was in my last year of college and it was my final Christmas break. One item lay on my wish list. It was a seemingly innocent wish: An electric reader. I could download all my books on one device. I would save money, and maybe relieve my back problems that came as a result of my heavy book load. All the other literature majors were doing it! I justified my purchase, for I knew I was cheating on my first love:: Real, leather-bound, paper plentiful, tangible books!
That semester, my back was better, but my connection to literature was different. I still was hit by the words, but when I tried to interact with the books, take notes on them, really research and delve into the language for the purposes of essays, it became harder to really have a personal relationship with the works. I learned my lesson.
Now, the world is becoming more and more digitalized. The local bookstores often have a large section devoted to digital devices, and literary journals are mostly online publications. Blogging has been good to me, and the digital has its place. But, I would hate to see it take over completely. There are still some literary journals that hold on to this dream. In my research, I found the Belleville Park Pages, a literary journal based in Paris, France that encourages keeping literature separate from the growing robotics of this technological world. Belleville, and other publishers like them are doing great things for all those that in the midst of an ever-changing world, cherish the concrete nature of holding a literary work in their hands and knowing, THIS at the very least, is real.