I was on Amazon.com today, because I fucking LOVE Amazon. (Free shipping to Hawaii? HOLLAH!) Max has just about finished the Harry Potter series and has already begun to worry about what he is going to read next. So we sat in my bed and cruised Amazon for ideas.
Apparently, their idea is for me to stop buying books entirely.
Every time you go to Amazon these days, it is Kindle this and Kindle that. But not just Kindle. Oh no. You can also download books to your phones and iPods! But apparently buying an actual BOOK is the last thing you should do. They are really obnoxiously persistant about it, offering the first chapter free so that they can take advantage of the increasingly prevalent instant-gratification problem we have as a species. Why wait for the book to be delivered by express mail? And don't go to an actual store - you will have to interact with other people, and you might get kicked in the head. Anything Could Happen. Just download it right now! You can be reading this book in 2 minutes! Why would you do anything else?
Okay, all right. I have to admit - I have been known to succumb to the siren song of downloads and instant gratification with the advent of Netflix.The other day when it took 35 seconds for an entire movie to load I almost threw my laptop out the front door in frustration until I realized that I was being an asshole.The internet is a miracle to begin with, and I should quit my bitching.
But movies are different than books. You always watch movies on a screen - computer screen, TV screen, theater screen - it's an electronic form of entertainment. But not books. Books are a thing. You can hold them and smell them and pass them around. You can grow attached to them. I have a cookbook of my grandmother's that is probably 75 years old, and it has smudges of shortening on the corners of the pages, and notes in the margins, and every time I open that book it is like I step back in time and I am perched on her tall stepstool under the wall phone with the rotary dial and the long cord, whipping meringue for the lemon pie.
Books have a life of their own, dammit. And I am petrified that the next generation of kids won't know the love of a book. I mean, my own kids already missed out on card catalogues - those old wooden drawers filled with the carefuly typed - or better yet, handwritten - cards, directing you through the shelves and shleves of history and yellowing paper.
And it's not just books. I remember lying in a patch of sunshine on the living room floor, surrounded by stacks of record albums, looking at the pictures and reading the lyrics and putting the needle down exactly in the right spot so that I could hear that song I loved over and over again. It's a skill you have to develop - to get that needle down just so. It's a lot more than just clicking a button. Especially when you have a throw blanket safety pinned over your head because you are pretending you are Maria from Sound of Music when she was still trying to be a nun.
But I digress.
Here I was, clicking my way through Amazon.Everything I looked at - music, books, and an increasing number of toys and games - was pitching the electronic version. No wonder newspapers and magazines are going out of business. I can't believe anyone is getting a book deal at all these days, because apparently, reading printed matter is totally passe.
BUT I LOVE PRINTED MATTER. I love books, newspapers and magazines. I love having newsprint on my fingers, I love the smell of paper. I have wonderful memories of lying in the living room with stacks of Sunday papers, drinking mugs of tea and working my way through 2 local dailies and the New York Times. And a dozen donuts STOP JUDGING ME. Oh, I just love a good Sunday paper. I love the Style section, with the clothes and the food and the weddings. Oh, the weddings - made even better by the addition of the gay marriages that detail a shared love of showtunes and decorating, or dog shows and the Indigo Girls.
The idea of reading a book electronically is so depressing. It goes against everything I know and love. The font, the binding, the heavy vellum, the dust jacket of a hardcover. The small paperback tucked in my purse or glovebox to distract me while I wait for an appointment, or in the school parking lot.
Nevermind the idea of having to be even more dependent on my fucking Blackberry. At this point, I can barely function without it - I can't imagine being further tethered to the damn thing. I get a cramp in my thumb just trying to look up a phone number for chrissake. How would I get through a novel?
So tomorrow, I am going old school. I'm walking to the neighborhood bookstore, asking the owner for some suggestions, buying Max a book, and leaving it on his bedside table for him to discover. I know, he's going to have to turn pages and use a bookmark.......but I think he can handle it.
I'll be in the living room licking Crisco off the pages of my grandmother's cookbook, and dreaming of Captain VonTrappe. He was totally hot.
33 minutes ago