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.