Thursday, September 23, 2010

On Losing Friends (of the Paper Persuasion)

What does a book mean to you?

I’ve been an avid reader long enough that I own a rather embarrassing pile of Star Trek and Earth 2 novels (yes, they had tie-in novels for Earth 2). In my life, I’ve spent countless hours reading and—with some select favorites—re-reading books.

The other day, I remembered that my copy of Brave New World was still missing. It’s been missing for six or seven years now. It’s like losing a friend when you realize you can’t find your copy of Smoke & Mirrors or the E. E. Cummings book with the poem that makes you tear up every time.

I buy lost books again sometimes. Even with a book that hasn’t been dog-eared or written in, there’s a feeling that something is missing. I replaced Smoke & Mirrors, but haven’t read it again. I didn’t re-purchase Brave New World.

... or the E. E. Cummings book with the poem that makes you tear up every time.

The other day, I thought I lost my copy of Demon-Haunted World. I was sad about it, but didn’t realize how sad I had been until I found it. As I finished reading it, I noticed it was gratuitously dog-earred. I nearly lost all of the quotes I wanted to remember. I would have lost part of what Carl Sagan meant to me.

When I contrast this to my favorite ebook purchase to date, I realize there’s not a whole lot of difference there. I bookmarked, highlighted, and scribbled like crazy in Cat’s Cradle. It’s possible the company I bought it from will go out of business and I’ll accidentally sync and lose everything I put into it.

A book is a book and whether it’s made out of bytes or ink. The emotional meaning is in the reader.

What’s your lost book story?


Michelle R. said...

Aw, man. Now I feel even worse about having to get rid of some of mine!

J. McNeill said...

Haha, whoops.