The Joy of Books

I love books.  I'm not referring merely to the paperback that you pick up at your local bookstore so you can read it on the subway or at the beach or in bed late at night.  I'm talking about the existential concept of books.  Of owning a personal library.  Of having a study whose walls are lined with shelves, each one jammed with books.  Paperbacks.  Trades.  Hardcovers.  Special editions. 

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not adverse to digital books.  I just had my first novel published as an e-book and am very pleased with the results.  The editing process and the production quality are just as good as anything in print.  And the popularity of digital books is increasing.  The competition between Kindle, Nook, and the other e-book readers will eventually play itself out (like the competition between laserdisks, Beta, and VHS) so that all the formats will be compatible.  I can foresee a time decades from now when books become collector's items (just like the over-sized videotape boxes from the 1980s), and most books purchased will be in electronic format.  And I hope to be part of that publishing trend.

But my dirty little secret will always be the love affair I have with the walls of print books lining my study. 

I'm not alone.  While back in Boston last week I spent an afternoon with two good friends, Curtis and Ron, horror aficionados like me.  The conversation covered a wide range of subjects, from movies to video games to graphic novels.  And books.  Ron loves collector's editions and picks up a copy whenever he has the chance.  (To his credit, he bought a digital copy of my book.  Thanks.)  I appreciate his passion for collector's editions since I feel pretty much the same way about books.

A lot of you know what I'm talking about.  Digital books are less expensive, and you can download scores of them into an electronic reader.  But for us, nothing beats the feel of a book in our hands.  Or the way they look so awesome on our bookshelf.  Or the fun of thumbing through one while relaxing in the backyard.  I know one literary agent who has a Kindle and is constantly downloading books for business purposes, but who confided in me that when he wants to read for pleasure he prefers a print copy.

As a fitting postscript to this blog, when I got back from Boston this afternoon I had a pleasant surprise waiting for me -- a package from a used book store in England.  Inside was the hardcover edition of James Herbert's The Fog from the 1970s.  Slightly-brittle yellow-pages.  A frayed book cover.  And that familar intoxicating smell of musty pages.

The cheapest fix a book junkie can get.

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