The Winking Book

This was written two years ago and appeared in the Star Beacon.


“E-book readers like the Kindle or even the i-Pad may be more convenient for the tech-savvy reader today outside the classroom. No longer do you have to go to a physical store to buy a book or order from Amazon.com and wait a few days for it to show up.”

Robert Lebzelter, Star Beacon, Nov. 20, 2010



       In the library, wondering through the stacks, I notice a book that is almost as old as I am winking at me from a crowded shelf. Easily tempted, I pull it down and wipe off the years of accumulated dust, revealing an unfamiliar title by an author unknown to me, and a blurb from a blurbist I’ve never heard of. But the book seems to have promise, and I take to the desk and check out. That evening, I settle on the couch and start to read, a little surprised that the book is so informative and well written.

       A few years later, I’m watching Jeopardy. Alex gives the answer, and I blurt out the question, suddenly aware of a fact I didn’t realize I was aware of. Or I’m trying to write, and a phrase or sentence spreads across the screen. I look at it, rub my eyes and look at it again. A thought so well stated that it’s hard to believe it sprang from my mind. But there it is.

       Where did the fact come from? And where did I get the notion to put words together in that particular fashion? Maybe from the dusty book on the crowded shelf.

       An e-book undoubtedly improves the mind of the reader just much as a book for which several trees gave their lives. The trouble with e-books is the e-store.

       With the possible exception of a well-stocked bakery, libraries and bookstores are the most delightful places in the world. Their shelves and tables groaning under the weight of thousands of books you haven’t any interest in. And yet, as you walk by, a book you weren’t looking for catches your eye. Maybe it has a provocative title, maybe it’s a book you were supposed to have read in school, maybe the name of author rings a bell, or maybe it just looks interesting. In any case, you take it home and enjoy the unexpected.

       The e-store has a larger selection than the largest library or bookstore. If you know what you’re looking for, you will find it at the e-store. But, if you find it by clicking the mouse, and you never wander through a maze of other titles on other subjects, will you ever find the book you didn’t know you wanted until you found it?

       According to the ad on the back of recent issue of Time, the new Amazon Kindle can store up to 3,500 books and weights less than a single paperback. To be able to throw a library of all the books you want to read into a brief case, purse, backpack or capacious pocket is amazing.

       But so is the sense of discovery that comes from walking through the stacks and finding a book you had no interest in until it winked at you.

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