Nostalgic for books

By Emily Merlino

Call me a nerd, or a geek, or better yet, the rather old-fashioned drip (if you habitually use this word, however, perhaps it is you that is the true nerd). I bought Star Trek on Black Friday, participated in National Novel Writing Month (for the two people out there that read my article last month, I didn’t come close to finishing), and asked for a manual typewriter for Christmas.  So yes, I unapologetically confess: I am a complete nerd.

Yutaka Tsutano/fotopedia

That being said, this nerd is angry.

Perhaps angry isn’t the right word. Perturbed is more like it, or maybe even nostalgic. Some time ago, I received some devastating news. A very good friend of mine’s health is failing. This particular figure and I have been close since I was in the womb. They are at my bedside at night, and back again when I’m ill. A constant companion, we are almost never apart. What is this mysterious figure?

A book.

A wonderful, thick, well-written (please!) book is a work of art, an extraordinary travel agent that can take you Out of Africa and back home again in less than an hour. And this wondrous thing is now so rare, it should be on the Endangered List of Species. And I am furious about it. But how could this be? What villain could have it out for such a harmless creature?

The culprit in this crime, my friends, is the Amazon Kindle.

About a year ago, Amazon (that online company that is not eBay where you can simultaneously buy a fridge, a Hello Kitty spiral, and a pair of swimming goggles) debuted the Twilight; the Miley Cyrus; the mediocre craze of the publishing world: the Kindle.

In case you haven’t heard of it, the Kindle is an e-reader, an electronic rectangle roughly the size of a piece of notebook paper. You buy books and put them on the Kindle much like you download music from iTunes and sync them to your iPod. The device is expensive, trendy, and of course flying off the shelves. And I hate it.

Granted, I am unusually old-fashioned in some of my tastes. I like vintage clothes, vintage bags, vintage music, and, most of all, vintage books. Not words typed on a screen that resembles a badly designed iPod on steroids. There’s nothing like grabbing a book off a shelf, rapidly flipping the pages to get that oddly pleasant book smell (I know you do it too), and opening the first page of a musty novel. The Kindle has no musty smell, cannot pronounce the name of our president, and has been linked to swine flu (this fact has not yet been scientifically proven).

Oh, yeah, and about the publishing world? It’s taking a beating. Imagine the Kindle as that chick that just moved here from Paris with all the shiny new shoes, the book as the classic girl next door, and the consumer as the teenage boy having to choose between the two.

Let’s all take a wild guess.

Having an author sign the digital screen of a Kindle in permanent ink will not increase its value, like it would a real book. What am I going to sell on eBay now that my autographed books business is shut down?

A modern question is often raised as to the true benefits of technology. Is technology sometimes beneficial? Of course.

But not always.

Modernity is generally praised, and we hold the great inventors on the same plane as monumental generals. The American spirit calls for advancement; we are always trying to improve, to heal, to make things better. There is, in theory, nothing wrong with such a motto. “Theory” being the operative word, I believe that with advancement must come both universal respect for our past and great caution. After all, Edison also endorsed the electric chair.

It is of my nerdy opinion that one of the purest luxuries in life is to burrow under mountains of blankets armed with a cup of hot cider, listen to the rain lightly tap-dance on the window, and pick up a delightfully imaginative book (preferably perfumed in Eau de Dust), and, without packing your things, abscond to an unknown land where anything can/does happen and technology is just another villain easily conquered.

Emily Merlino is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]