Friday, April 3, 2009

Books Can Take A Licking

On a recent flight from Phoenix, I found myself sitting next to a young woman on her way home from Costa Rica. In the seat pocket in front of her, I noticed an inscrutable object- thick, yellowed, ragged. It took me a minute to figure out that it was a book, a paperback copy of Cadillac Desert. I asked her about it, and she explained that she had been mountain biking and backpacking, and that the book had taken some abuse: rained on, dropped in puddles, stuffed into a rucksack.

It got me thinking about a passage in Lewis Buzbee's The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop. The book, he says, is a 500-year-old technology that hasn't been much improved upon in the intervening years:

"The book is a uniquely durable object, one that can be fully enjoyed without being damaged. A book doesn't require fuel, food, or service; it isn't very messy and rarely makes noise. A book can be read over and over, then passed on to friends, or resold at a garage sale. A book will not crash or freeze and will still work when filled with sand. Even if it falls into the bath, it can be dried out, ironed if necessary, and then finished....books require no special training to operate."

If this woman sitting next to me on her flight home from Costa Rica had brought a Kindle on her trip, she would have been out $359.00.

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