My nephew Erik’s family has a game they often play at dinnertime. One of the kids will start the game by asking something like, “Mom, what’s your favorite television show?” or “Dad, what’s your favorite place you have ever visited?” They then go around the table, each answering the particular question. Then the next person asks a question. And so forth.
It is, I presume, under this circumstance that my great nephew Carter, who is 8 years old, recently asked his mom a question that tickled her so much that she posted it on Facebook. “Mom, what is your favorite smell?” She answered that she liked the fragrance of cinnamon and vanilla candles. “What’s yours?” she asked him. “I love the smell of a new book,” he answered. “I just love that smell.”
That is a child after my own heart. There is nothing like the smell and the feel of a new book. A hard back book with its perfect cover that creaks as you open the book wide. A paperback book that is smooth and unblemished with a perfectly uncreased binding.
Having said that, I will remind you all that I have confessed that I no longer read paper books, opting instead for ebooks every time. There are pluses and minuses about reading books off of my iPad. In the plus category is the fact that I never have to worry about running out of books. When I finish a book, I always have another book available. I can, in fact, carry with me many, many books. Also, I have a book at hand even in the case of an unexpected circumstance requiring me to wait since I have my kindle software on my phone as well as my iPad. If I want a book, I can get it immediately by going to Amazon and buying the book. And these days there are many books available electronically through the library, though it often requires a wait period. But that is also true of paper books.
But the minuses of reading electronically is that you miss out on exactly what Carter said he likes – the smell and feel of a new book. And please understand this fact: for book lovers, reading is a tactile experience. I love – well, loved – the look and feel of a new book.
The other day I was talking with someone about occupations. Being old and forgetful, I don’t even remember who I was talking to and why we were talking about jobs.
“What would you do for a living if you had it to do over again?” asked Whoever-It-Was-With-Whom-I-Was-Having-This-Conversation.
That’s easy. I would be a librarian.
I would suck at the part about doing research. Research makes me impatient and cranky. And, I know, I know, that’s probably the largest part of the job. But I would excel – EXCEL, I TELL YOU – at the part about talking about books and shelving books and checking out books. Touching books. Because I love books.
All of the above thoughts popped into my head recently because I had cause to actually enter a library building, something I probably haven’t done for over a year. That’s remarkable, because I am one of the world’s biggest users of the library. I have been since I was a little girl. I remember what it felt like to walk up the concrete stairs of our old library in Columbus. The steps were actually somewhat concave from the hundreds and hundreds of people who had climbed them over the years. I remember what the old, heavy wooden door felt like as I pushed it open. And yes, Carter, I remember exactly how it smelled.
But I have little need to actually enter a library these days because I do it all over the internet. I reserve books. I check out books. I download books. I read books. I return the books. All on my computer or my iPad.
The 21st century is convenient and easy in many ways, but there are many things that I miss as I move into a more and more modern society.