Tuesday, December 6, 2011


My house is chock full of books.

There are cookbooks in the kitchen.  There's a bookshelf...but no television...in our living room.   Every one of the bedrooms has a shelf or three laden with books.  Our rec-room?

That 56" television gets plenty of use, but it isn't the dominant visual presence in room.  Instead, it's hardbacks and paperbacks, graphic novels and manga, neatly linear, row upon row, against three of the four walls.

My study?  There's an entire wall of commentaries and works of philosophy and history and poetry and theology.

Yet things are shifting.   Though my latest round of reading for my doctoral program arrived in paperback form on my doorstep today, I can feel the era of print waning all about me.

I read my first full book on Kindle recently, cranking my way through George MacDonald's Lilith on my wife's iPad.

It was still the same strangely compelling story it would have been had it been on processed wood pulp.   The words still had power.  It still messed with my dreams in interesting ways, as MacDonald always does.   And yet that tactile presence is not in our home, not now that I'm done.

My older son encountered the spreading death of print this week when he got this month's Shonen Jump, the grand dame of all manga.  They're discontinuing their magazine, and going entirely electronic.  And he's bummed.  Sure, he can now get the instant gratification of the instant download.  But a significant part of the joy of Shonen Jump has been its arrival, thickening the mailbox with bold ink and adolescent emotion.

I wonder...do I want to imagine a house without books, shelves full of books lining the walls with silent knowledge?   Will there come a time when the only time you take a book off of a shelf to read is in some virtual world that reimagines a mythic place when people did such things?


  1. I say we rebel. Only print for me. I've decided not to participate, whenever possible, in the demise of the printed word.

  2. I read Wickernisdes on my Kindle. So did my 8 year old.

  3. @ Lee: I can see that I will adapt to it, as I've adapted to putting most of my written thinking up online. But the tactile character of books is something I'll miss, just as I miss sorting through the precise rows of LPs that used to line my parents' living room.

    And Wickersnides? Read? Glad to hear it! Did your eight year old like it, or was their only comment, "Well, it could seriously use some more copy editing."

  4. Most of my work is on the computer in a virtual environment. I occasionally teach a class online. When I read a novel to relax and enjoy, I really like having it in my hands and turning the pages. On the train traveling back home yesterday, four of us were sitting together....two of us with books, two with electronic devices, reading, emailing, playing games, etc. I read books to Vincent every night, some of them that were his mother's when I read them to her as a child. I will give up printed books if I have to...but not willingly.