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Books, Nooks, and more books


Last year, a friend was excited about donating her entire collection of books to the Wilson County Library.

No, she was not giving up her love for reading. Instead, she was putting all her library onto her electronic reading gadget. I don’t recall if it was a Nook, Kindle, or other e-reader, but I could never give up my books. Never.

I love books. I love the tactile experience the feel of the pulp product between my fingers. I love the crackling sounds as I gingerly turn the pages. It’s a tangible connection to the written word.

It’s a different experience with old books, compared to new books.

New books have the fresh-ink smell and glossy pages have a distinctive “new” smell. With old books, the fragile pages may be so brittle that turning the pages is a delicate process. They smell different, perhaps with a slight musty “flavor.”

Old books are precious. The paper likely has a high rag content and is visibly different than paper used in new books. Even the bindings in old books were of higher quality. Some had embossed covers, and the illustrations and lithographs made the old book a work of art in its production.

Books used to take forever to be published. The first draft may have been in longhand. Typing a manuscript for a book was a painstaking process, complete with careful corrections. It was a process that could take years nothing like today’s paperbacks that are churned out by the millions.

But new books can be beautiful as well, especially a nice leather-bound copy. Be careful not to crinkle the pages, fresh with chemicals, or smear the ink or leave careless fingerprints. And please don’t dog-ear the pages seems almost sacrilegious. I had a friend who would read with a highlighter, marking all her favorite passages. I tried it once, but that’s not for me.

I can see, possibly if it’s a textbook, marking the answers as a way to study, but that tends to ruin it for the next person who might want to use the book.

I love old cookbooks, too. I have one special cookbook that I have used for nearly 50 years. As I learned to make my favorite recipes, I left a good share of greasy marks and water splatters as I turned pages with wet hands. They are witness to the goodness of the recipes.

I never marked it with a pen, but certainly marked it with flour and a hint of cinnamon or vanilla and whatever else I was cooking with. The book is tattered, and some pages are coming loose from the spine, but to me it’s priceless, and it’s still one of my favorite books.

Don’t get me wrong. I may google for a quick recipe, but I’ll never part with my collection of cookbooks.

A book is still a book and a Nook cannot take its place.

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