Are Books Important — or Just Stories?

I personally will always want books — not just stories.

Are Books Important -- or Just Stories?

Just read a blog by my fellow bookseller, Bookavore , based on another blog by Clay Shirky. Bookavore wonders if  “Society doesn’t need books.  What we need are stories.”

It’s not my profession as a bookseller that makes me think we will always need books. In the rush to put everything in digital form, we make a lot of assumptions. One of them is that we will always have electricity. One look at the newspaper I still subscribe to lets me know that there is dissension all over the globe. Our diplomats fly from one trouble spot to another trying to make peace in places that may be about to acquire nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction. Our computers and phones keep us connected to people throughout the world and we stay aware of the impending threats. However, when we are willing to get rid of books, we make the assumption that no one ever will push the button and that terrorists will never be able to knock out our communication systems.

Where would we get our stories should we be subject to cyber terrorism? I suppose we’d all have some to tell. And maybe we’d all be trying so hard to survive we wouldn’t need just stories.  We might actually need information in hard copies to read for our survival. If we did have some time on our hands, it might be handy to have access to books to entertain, inspire, and give us hope.

Even if we continue to have relative peace, our digital communication is often interrupted. Phone lines go down — especially in more rural areas. Where I live, a good wind following a good rain, or even a  bird on the wires above, can knock out our power for hours or even days. During those times, books are treasured companions.

When reading a beautifully illustrated book to a child, nothing beats sitting on the sofa with a physical book on one’s lap and children cuddled up on both sides to share the view. I can’t see a Kindle really replacing that. They will probably improve them in time, but I doubt if they will feel like books in the hand. Touching an icon is not the same at all as turning a genuine page and getting a glimpse of the next one.

Books also connect me to those who preceded me in history. Many biographies and journals will never be published in digital form — especially those now out of print. The authors of these live on in physical books, which will continue to be read by those who are interested in them. Though it’s easy for anyone to publish digitally today, this only started a few short years ago. Some writers from the past will only be found in books.

I will always want books — not just stories.

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Author: Barbara Radisalvjeivc

I have been reading since the age of three, and still use books to relax or learn something new. I sold books in a store and online and on the road for a total of 30 years, and now I enjoy recommending my favorites to others.

6 thoughts on “Are Books Important — or Just Stories?”

  1. Personally, I’m not a big fan of getting rid of books either–as anybody who has helped me move in the last few years can attest!

    I think there will always be a place for books. I definitely hope there will. What I think Shirky’s entry is useful for, though, is, if we can conceive of a world without books, and understand why it might or could happen, perhaps we can avoid ending up there. In other words, it felt to me like what he was saying was newspapers couldn’t even consider that they might disappear, and that’s one of the reasons they are disappearing. I hope that if we can understand why books might disappear–and use that knowledge to make books even more indispensable than the reasons you describe above–it will be good for us, our jobs, and most importantly, books.

    1. I’m sorry to be years in responding. I somehow didn’t see your comment when you posted this, and I only recently revived this blog. I do agree with your comment. I could not get along without my reference books and physical versions of books to review. Not only will they outlive ebooks, but they are also much easier to flip through to find the passages you need.

  2. Henry Waxman doesn’t cherish an old book if it’s for children. He wants anything printed before 1985 for children sent to the dump, and doesn’t want to reform his law, CPSIA, that would allow such books to continue to be legally sold. He is not even willing to have a hearing about it. He likes it just the way it is. Have you ever heard of a child getting lead poisoning from a book? Why can’t Congress show some common sense. Have you ever seen a 12-year-old try to eat a book?

  3. Books in the physical form – held in your hands, carried from place to place, read at home, in cars, on trains & buses – may they always be available this way! I don’t even like the digital format for instruction manuals for your computer — too hard to flip back & forth online to learn what you could easily follow from a book placed in front of you and an index to quickly look things up!

    I love books, I like holding them while I read. You can’t curl up in a comfy armchair or lay on your back in the grass or on the beach with a computer to read. Give me the actual book always!

    1. I couldn’t agree more. Many people think the Kindle is just as convenient, but personally, I think a book in the hand is worth 200 in the Kindle. A book doesn’t need a warranty and can take a lot more abuse than anything electronic. As you say, books can go anywhere and and don’t need batteries. Thanks for visiting my blog.

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