I have no problem with Kindle, but I still prefer looking at words printed on paper. I also like feeling the texture of the page. Some avid book readers I know like the smell of the pages.
Last week, I did something pretty old-fashioned but quite radical in this day and age. I went to a bookstore and bought a book.
Yes, you read it right. I actually bought a book. I went to downtown Sydney to the Kinokuniya bookstore — a readers’ paradise with quite a selection of books for all types of people. I spent a lot of time at the Australian history section and bought a book called Girt: The Unauthorized History of Australia by David Hunt. It is a delightfully humorous narrative about unknown snippets of Australian history.
The last time I was in Sydney months ago, I also went to the same bookstore and purchased a book written by an Aboriginal writer.
Two weeks ago, as we were doing spring cleaning at home, I came across a pile of children’s books which I used to read to my kids when they were very young. These were mostly books by Dr. Seuss. I read a whole bunch of them many times to my kids. Dr. Seuss classics like The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, One Hand Drumming on a Drum, The Birthday Book, There’s a Wocket in my Pocket, I’ll Teach my Dog 100 Words, to name just a few, were books that I shared with my kids.
It is such a delight to read Dr. Seuss. He has simple rhymes and very unique drawings that can really delight anyone’s imagination. They are perfect tools to get the very young to love books.
I started introducing books to my kids even before they could talk. I would sit next to them, open the books and read everything on the pages while pointing to the letters with my hands. I would read aloud — not just the title and author of the book; I would even read the page number, copyright and publishing info. I would read aloud everything on the pages. I wanted my kids to know that all the letters and numbers on the page meant something.
Throughout their childhood, I was reading to each one of them. For them, books were easy to like because I made reading very exciting. I read stories and poetry to them. Even if we had a television, I raised them away from it except for Sesame Street and a few other shows. Instead of them vegging out in front of a TV screen for hours, I would read and spend crazy times with them and invent games to play. Sometimes I would read certain books three times in a row since they loved the stories so much.
I am just so glad that, in this internet age, where people’s attention spans have shrunk to very short stretches, I still see my kids reading novels. I feel proud of them. And I feel affirmed that I raised them well in this respect.
My wife Lydia uses a Kindle. I have read a few books on such devices. It was okay. I have no problem with them, but somehow I still prefer looking at words printed on paper. I also like feeling the texture of the page. I like flipping pages. Some avid book readers I know like the smell of the pages.
The disadvantage of books though is they can weight a lot and occupy bigger spaces than Kindle and similar gadgets, especially when traveling. Outside of that, I love seeing stacks of good books on bookshelves. Occasionally I go to my bookshelves and reread books I have enjoyed before.
I have also gone through phases in my life where I read a whole number of books by the same author one after another. I get the feeling that I know the authors quite intimately after. I got so carried away with the Conversations with God series of books by Neale Donald Walsch that I actually invited him to visit the Philippines and give talks. I had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with him and his wife in between scheduled book signings and lectures. It was an unforgettable experience talking to a famous author about his works while riding the car, having dinner or drinking coffee.
I’ve written to a few authors whose books I have read. I contacted Paulo Coelho via email and he answered me back very quickly. He even responded to questions I asked about certain characters in a particular book. I specifically mentioned a female character in his book The Valkyries and asked if she was a fictional or real person. He said the character was based on a real person. I also got a sense that she was a woman Coelho had known and loved.
The invention of print made the sharing of ideas and stories universally possible. We can say that print is probably among the top greatest inventions of mankind. We must thank Johannes Gutenberg for that. It is amazing to read that in Europe during the 17th century, people were already reading books. The most popular books during that time, next to the Bible, were travel stories written by explorers who had successfully crossed the oceans and visited undiscovered islands and peoples and had returned.
In this modern world where almost everything is available online and can be ordered or accessed from one’s phone or laptop, there are certain pleasures that I prefer to still experience in the old-fashioned way. Talking person-to-person live, going to bookstores, silence, learning a handicraft, listening to music while not doing anything, meditating and reading books are only some of them.
I am hoping that many millennials try being “old-fashioned” once in a while and hang around libraries and bookstores. Better yet, I hope they spend money buying real books. I am pretty sure they will enjoy the experience enough to want to do it again and again. Who knows? They could collect books and build and share personal libraries just as many do with comic books and video games.