Magical Pages

Aug 20th, 2010 1:56:00am

I love to read. It’s one of my most favourite things to do. No, scratch that. It is my most favourite thing to do. The beauty of the written word, its power and ability to change lives, to create, to destroy, to bring to life and surface things one would not have been able to imagine otherwise; it’s a remarkable thing. Words have impact.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

I hate that line. Words do hurt. They can stab you where you least expect it. They have a greater effect than the originator of that line could have possibly imagined. Words can discourage and demolish, just as they can inspire and motivate.

Books are my source of pleasure. In them is where I seek those glorious words I have so much respect and admiration for. Books are where I find my escape.

That is why it saddens me, seeing all the new software for reading books digitally. Actually no, not reading books digitally, simply: reading digitally. I don’t consider a book a book, unless you can feel it, see it, smell it, turn its pages, open it with excitement and anticipation, and close it regretfully when it is over.

There are advantages to the software, yes. No need to carry a heavy weight. Cheaper because money that would otherwise be spent on printing and cover designing and illustrations is saved. Hey, no paper cuts! No fire hazards. No wastage of paper either therefore making it a greener option.

But is it really a wastage of paper? Is the excitement of holding a book in your hands, either a fresh copy or one that’s in tatters from being read so often because of words that comfort you in their familiarity, no matter how much things have changed around you, is it really to be replaced with what would be to me a duller version of the feeling when you download something new to read?

To me, books aren’t a heavy weight or a paper-cut risk. They are real. You can run your fingers over the printed words, that slight scratch beneath your fingertips: the unique feel of paper. You can gaze at beautiful covers, while deciding whether or not to begin or continue, or to save the pleasure for a later time. You can take them down from your bookshelf and dust them off years later, to read to your friends, or children, or grandchildren your favourite lines.

They are comforting, books are.

There is comfort in opening a book. It’s like opening a door to a new place. You don’t know exactly what you’re going to find, but you’re eager to find out. And as you turn each page, sinking further into what you’re reading, all you see is what the writer has laid out for you. The lightness of the page and the darkness of the printed word are easily a front. A disguise. Hiding beneath it a glorious world of opportunity, of history, of tales of old and the creativity of the new. I don’t feel that reading from a laptop. The glare of the monitor and the sheer… coldness, interfere, reminding me that I am here, in the real world, sitting at my laptop reading things that could never be or already have been and shall not be again.

There is comfort in closing a book at the finish. A sadness, yes, for you feel almost like you’ve lost a friend, as the saying goes. However, there is the comfort in the finality. You know it’s over and now you are free to think, to ponder over what you’ve read as the back cover stares up at you, confirming its ending.

Books are warm. They are tender portals into all new planes, taking you gently by the hand and leading you down endless paths. They trap memories within their pages, so that every time you open that one book you’re taken back to the feelings and places you were at the time you first read it.

Technology has taken over a lot of things. It has made things easier and cheaper on one front, and harder and more expensive on another, but it has taken over. I just hope it doesn’t take over this as well, despite showing signs of it.

I truly believe it could never match up to all those feelings a lovely printed manuscript, with beautiful jackets that enclose magical pages, provokes.

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