I was in the charity shop this afternoon trying to find some interesting books to read finding none and I thought: “How sad.”
How sad it is to see those empty shelves that used to house hundreds of books one could get lost in it for hours at times. Now, they are gone. I went to a lot of such places this weekend in the hope of finding some suitable reading materials but what’s on offer were so little compared to a couple of years ago.
There was a time that books were everywhere. You could not turn a corner without bumping into a bookstore, but in my city alone, several of those shops have closed their doors due to low patronage. It breaks my heart to witness another dying culture.
Once upon a time when browsing in second-hand bookstores, not only customers were spoilt for choice they could be selective as well for there were products in abundance; now, that privilege is a thing of the past. I began to notice the decline in offer when I failed to find my favourite authors among the selection. First, I settled on finding good books. It doesn’t matter who wrote them as long as the stories are interesting enough to keep me busy. I am a voracious reader anyway, and I can consume a great quantity of materials on so short time that if I am going to purchase all my reading pleasure brand new, I will be soon on the edge of bankruptcy. That’s why I frequent charity shops to sustain my needs.
When even good books became a rarity, I talked myself into buying paperbacks that are “good enough.” That was also the time I considered going to a library. But I hate rules and I dislike deadlines and I tend to abuse my books by bringing them everywhere and not using book markers because I tend to lose them, I fold a corner of a page instead. Underlining the passages I like and highlighting them with coloured markers are some of my sinful preoccupation while reading. I think no library would appreciate that.
Now, even mediocre books are very hard to find. Especially if one is looking for reading materials that are written in English but living in a country that does not have English as the principal language. I am aware that there is this thing called E-Book, and that is the only thing I know about it. Frankly, I am not interested knowing also. At least, not yet. Not as long as I can find printed materials to read. It reminds me of the time that I stupidly refused to change my nationality out of principle. Till someone opened my eyes to the possibilities and advantages of acquiring one and to be honest, I had no choice. Not, if I want to see my children growing up.
Why I am not interested in using E-Book? Well… there are so many reasons, but the most important of them all is because I believe that the ultimate reading experience involves holding an actual book. Something you can smell (I love smelling books, old or new) caress the pages… there is something erotic about turning those folios (or leaves if you preferred) books turn me on and I unwittingly impart this knowledge to my ex who never hesitated to use it against me whenever he deemed appropriate.
One of my secret fantasies is to be locked up in a vast library (or a museum) for a week, living side by side with all of those magnificent stories. It’s better than travelling sometimes and certainly preferable than having sex. I imagine gliding my hand across their spines, feeling the textures, the hardness, embracing their aroma… the thoughts that thousands, probably millions of people handled them, found knowledge and solace between their pages is a humbling experience.
But my first love is dying. Dying in the hands of modern society. The same society who used to respect and recognize the value and power of printed materials by making them available for everyone who seeks to be educated and advance in any field. The same society who became knowledgeable with the help of books is now ignoring and casting them away in exchange for modern technology. I know that the only constant in this world is changes but can we at least preserve some of our most prominent culture/tradition/heritage/whatever? A lot of those are disappearing in the name of progress which makes me question if we are really improving.
I am aware that there are great buildings that house rare volumes. But I am not talking about those. I am talking about the accessibility of tangible educational reading materials to ordinary mortals in the comfort of their own homes, in their own tempo. I rather get rid of those fashion glossy magazines and gossip tabloids in favour of bringing back the good old books. And comics and snail mails, etc. But that is for another post…
Now, I’m scared. I’m scared that one day the only way I can see books is from behind protected glass, admiring it from a distance, which makes me think of pictures of Dinosaurs and certain animals that you can only see from afar in the zoo.
Isn’t it a sad, sad affair?