Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Another reason to love paper books

A few years ago, I started collecting books. I haven't read half of them, but I know how each book feels in my hands, how it looks on the shelf, whether or not it's got illustrations and if it's a first edition and if an edge is tattered and if there's a dust jacket and how the book smells. Book collecting, for me, is often about the package more than the story. It's about the physical thing itself.

People who love their e-readers love reading. People with books may or may not love reading. They might just love books. Don't get me wrong, stories are critical to my life. But I don't collect books for the joy of reading. I collect books because I love books.

One reason I got into collecting was because of something a paper book has that an e-book doesn't: The ink signature. Sure, a signature can be done electronically or scanned, but seeing it on a screen is like looking at a picture of the Grand Canyon. You can no more hang your head over the edge of the north face than you can rub your finger across the page and feel the groove where the pressure of the pen dug in. In high resolution, you could see the flecks of ink from where the pen spit as it glided, but you can't put a drop of water on to see if it will run. There's something real, something necessary about the physical contact that goes beyond what we experience with a screen. When we read from a screen, we certainly connect to the literature. But touching the page the author touched is a different experience entirely. And though a signature may look similar from book to book after years of practice, it's unique in each instance and will never happen exactly the same way again. For one of the Wal-Mart and internet generation, this type of uniqueness has become rare and precious.

Electronic books are amazing. They spread stories, and that is good. Paper books are amazing too. They spread stories, many are works of art, and they've given me the opportunity to make a connection I can't get anywhere else.

Here's my collection. This first set includes books signed by people I was lucky enough to meet but don't know personally:

This set is from people I've never met. Some of the authors and/or illustrators pre-signed the books for bookshops, and I found others online. Some are signed to someone specific.

But the really special collection is a stack of books signed by people I'm extremely proud to know personally.

These last two are especially special. The first is from my sister with a lovely dedication. I'd never had a book dedicated to me before! And the second is from my hubby's childhood days from his dear friend and cousin.


Links (when and where I could find them) to the authors & illustrators above, in order of their appearance: