In Defense of Real Books

The fables of John Gay

I love books and always have.  I would have a hard time imagining a world without books.  I know that there are societies that still exist that don’t have books and they seem to get along just fine.  I am not an anthropologist and don’t know all of the social ramifications that come about once a society develops the capacity to write things down into book form and to pass that knowledge along to future generations.  Certainly oral story telling and passing down knowledge via oral means has served humanity well and still serves many cultures well , but books seem to be a powerful means of insuring that knowledge is preserved .   I sit looking at a volume of Gay’s Fables published in 1793.  The book is full of stories predate the publication of the book by hundreds of years. We owe a great debt to John Gay for his collecting these stories and preserving them in a format that over 200 years later I can still access.  I have sitting in another room floppy disks that I used with computers just a few short years ago.  I am certain you can still obtain external floppy disk drives, but the information on the disks might no longer be compatible with my Windows 7 operating system.  I don’t have to worry about Gay’s book of fables as long as my eyes can see and even then someone could read the book to me.  This is wonderful !  Another volume that jumps out at me is ” Enchanted Tales of the Atlantic”.  This book was published in 1898 and contains stories about such places as Atlantis and Antilla and Hy – Brasil.  In it you can read tales about Merlin and Sir Lancelot as well as the story of the voyage of St. Brandan.  I can sit for hours and occupy my time reading these stories.  The only operating system I need is the one that I have always had – an inquisitive mind.   I have a great admiration for those people who made books possible – from the ancients who started recording events by drawing on cave walls to the people who hand wrote manuscripts to the people who developed type and to those who developed moveable type.  We all have a debt to those people who handed down stories via oral traditions and to those who eventually wrote down those stories.

In reality I started with the intention of writing a post about poetry but as often happens I got distracted by looking at a book so I will continue in that direction and leave the poetry post for another day.  I really don’t know what point I am trying to make except the point of the great value of real , physical books.  I have hard disk drives downstairs that I have removed from computers over the years.  Sometimes I have had the foresight to insure that I backed up all of my personal documents before removing the drives and sometimes I have not.  Some of the data on those drives will never be recovered.  When all of the worlds books are on such drives how secure will they be ?  I would much rather trust a book to hold information than I would trust a computer to do the same.  I do have a few digital books on my Galaxy Note but I haven’t yet curled up with my Note and read one!  I can’t say the same about the books sitting on my shelf.  Some of them have been my companion for decades.  They have performed their function without requiring batteries or electricity.  They are in pretty much the same condition today that they were when I obtained them.  Some of them have a little shelf wear (don’t we all) but they are still in their prime and many of them will continue to be in such condition for hundreds of years.  My copy of Gay’s Fables is actually a little better than when I obtained it – I had it rebound and replaced the end sheets.  The book pages are still bright for being over 200 years old. I have no doubt those pages will still be bright another hundred years from now.  Don’t get me wrong – I like technology.  By most definitions of the word , I am a geek.  I’ve  built computers, networked them, played with Linux , PHP , MYSQL and the like ,  have several thousand comics in my own collection , and worship at the alter of all things Star Trek , but when I comes to books I am old school and will probably remain that way.   I value knowledge and am excited to be able to quickly research topics using the Internet , but when it comes to books , I find that holding one in my hand is infinitely more satisfying than reading on a computer , a tablet or a smart phone.  Maybe I’m stuck in the 16th century !  As they say today IDK !  And also , I don’t care !  Give me a real book any day.


I am

John Pollard

JPollardbookseller @

Brick and Mortar and on the net

Member IOBA


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