The Reading Woman ~A Moment of Meditation

A book is a fragile creature.  It suffers the wear of time, it fears rodents, the elements, clumsy hands.  ~Umberto Eco
I heard a rumor today, and perhaps it’s true…that for the first time,  Amazon has sold more e-books this quarter than paper books.
Such statstics frighten me.  And even though books are, as Umberto Eco says, “fragile creatures” that “suffer the wear of time,” I want always to be able to hold books in my hand, to be able to keep them on my shelf as they age and yellow, to turn down tiny corners of their pages to remind me where to look for striking sentences.   I want always to have my Signet paperback editions of Jane Austen, the ones I bought for $1.95 way back in 1979.  I want always to be able to run to my bookshelves and peruse my motley crew, comprised of old paperbacks and pristine hardcovers, with a few revered textbooks and well-loved picture books thrown in for good measure.
I know how we are, we people of the 21st century.  We embrace the new and unique with a hard and stubborn vengenance.  Our use of cell phones has nearly negated the need for land lines; the quick immediacy of texting almost usurping e-mail; digital music downloads rendering CD’s obsolete.  
And thus, I’m afraid my beloved books are on the firing line.
So I offer A Moment of Meditation, an oil painting by Mosé Bianchi, an late 19th century Italian artist about whom little information is available.  Sadly, he seems to have faded from the annals of history.  The rather melahcholy, prayerful expression on this young woman’s face as she cradles her small book between her palms seems to mirror my own feelings as I contemplate a world without the pleasure of real books within it.

14 thoughts on “The Reading Woman ~A Moment of Meditation

  1. I truly think paper books will continue…they provide a different set of goods from e-books, whereas mp3s offered same things as CDs only easier, ditto for cell phones v. landlines. 🙂 When television arrived, it didn’t completely wipe out the movie industry (though it did change it, of course)!

  2. I think that Eva has some really good analogies. (Which I will have to ‘steal’ to illustrate the point). I have a kindle but man oh man do I love my tangible-in-my-hands-smell-of-print BOOKS! The Kindle is great for long road trips, easy to carry a wide variety of things.

  3. Although I travel frequently, and I’ve been eying the Nook, nothing will ever bring me as much pleasure as walking into a bookshop and picking up a book. This painting looks fabulous, it certainly is a beautiful representation of all things literary, isn’t it?

  4. I have the same fears. I do love the feel and smell of real books. I don’t think I’d ever feel comfy reading on a kindle or like gadget. Hopefully used bookshops will stay around for along time, as long as there are old-fashioned readers like us who prefer paper and ink!

  5. Do you remember “Video killed the radio star?” Radio is still here (another point for Eva :D) I would like to believe that solid, tactile, paper books will not become extinct. Endangered, maybe. But not extinct. The industry will adapt–it has to–and some genres will probably fare better electronically than others, but perhaps there’s good news in there somewhere for small presses, or works in translation. The stuff that might otherwise have fallen between the cracks…(how’s that for mixing metaphors?)

  6. i’m more worried that bookshops will disappear. everyone is buying everything online these days (books in their hard-copy version or in their digital form) making the actual store unnecessary. i think that’s sad. i’ve met some rather very knowledgeable booksellers in my day and it saddens me to think that soon enough their services will no longer be needed.

  7. When Bellezza got a Nook, I knew that in the future I will have to buy an e-book. I really love the feel of books and it’s that very feel, the touch I will miss the most more than the smell, the sight. Aside from that, the bookstores. DON’T TELL ME BOOKSTORES WILL BE OBSOLETE TOO?!

  8. And do you know what the fastest growing sector of the music industry is? Vinyl. Yep, everyone’s going back to it. So hang on in there – this is a passing a fad. We just have to hold strong and buy what we want to buy, not what we’re told to buy.

  9. You’ve all done a lot to reassure me 🙂 I actually have an e-reader (a Sony) and I love it for traveling. Technology, like all good things, has to be used with moderation and good sense. I really hope we can do that with e-readers and books 🙂

  10. Also remember, Becca, what is outselling paper books on ebooks. Generally, ebooks consist of mass market bestsellers. Those are the kinds of books people want to read while travelling and on subways and other places where it makes sense to have a portable device. There’s a place for it all. Ereaders on the plane; books in the tub. 🙂

  11. I haven’t succumbed to an e-reader yet, as much because of shortage of money as any other reason, but I can’t see my giving up conventional books for anything!
    I do agree with Danielle though, that book shops might be closer to being endangered because so much is bought on line and that does worry me, even though I am as guilty as anyone else of being unable to resist the siren call of Amazon’s prices!

  12. As a lover and embracer of e-books, I still don’t think paper is going anywhere. There are too many of us who still love to love and pet them.

  13. This frightens me as well.. I cannot stand the thought of a world without second hand book stores and used books with character and the smell of books in general. I would go for a real book with pages to touch anyday.

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