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Book Format: A Matter of Preference, not Perfection

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Who is the “favorite child” in your family? The answer might vary among your siblings, if you have any. (We will presume that it will always be yourself if you are an only child.) Of course, one child might be considered “Mom’s favorite” and another “Dad’s favorite”, depending upon whose opinion is being offered. And then there are those who might respond, “Not me”, as I would. Not that I felt slighted by my parents, but more that I could think of several reasons that one of my four siblings would be so designated and none for myself.

As for who among my own children could be called the favorite, my response would be that I don’t have one. My children would dispute that, of course. But I believe that most of us parents really try hard to not play favorites.  But sometimes there are situations when we must choose among children, and we weigh our choices the best we can.

What does this have to do with books?

I hang around with a lot of readers, writers, and other types of “bookish” people.  Most are very congenial and I love to talk books more than just about anything.  But sometimes I hear someone say something like, “I don’t own a reader” or “I won’t read e-books” or “I won’t listen to audiobooks” and then go on to explain that they only read traditional books, sometimes in a tone that suggests that anyone who doesn’t do the same has faulty judgement, or taste, or intelligence.

My response is always (a mental) “huh?” when I hear this.  It’s like they think they have to choose between their children, for Pete’s sake. But, inevitably, someone will nod their head and the rest of the group will give it up, not wishing to get into an argument.

That’s when I would like to tell them that I agree with them about how wonderful traditional books are for so many reasons, including the following:

Traditional books are enduring.

They have been around for hundreds of years in the form we recognize today and, I believe, will continue to be so. They are like bowls, blankets, and baskets – items that are loved and appreciated for their form and their function. Their value comes not just from their beauty as objects, but for what they can contain and provide for us.

Traditional books are familiar and comforting.

What booklover doesn’t have a favorite reading spot?  Most photos and illustrations that I have seen don’t focus on a luxurious setting, but usually a comfortable chair, some pillows, something nearby to eat or drink, perhaps a favorite reading companion (dog, cat, or human), and a book. We are drawn to that place where we can escape and pamper ourselves a bit and that book is the anchor we seek.

Traditional books stimulate our senses.

Most of us appreciate the crisp fragrance of a new book and the pleasure of being the first to turn pristine pages.  We can also confess a love for older books, with their musty, not unpleasant, scent and yellowed pages. We can also get tactile pleasure from different materials used in binding, and visual pleasure from lovely illustrations, photographs, and typography.

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Traditional books are personal (or can be made so).

They can be inscribed, scribbled, written or doodled in. They can be saved or collected according to our personal preferences.  They can be reminders of people we have known and loved, places we have visited, and days of our lives. They can reflect us as individuals and collectively, through our interests, our passions, our hopes and our dreams.

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Traditional books are user-friendly.

Give a board book to a baby or a picture book to a young child and they will catch on quickly. The baby may give it a quick chew first, but it won’t take long for tiny hands to learn to explore the wonder of turning pages to find something new. The young child will soon understand that what is on one page leads to something related on the next. We master the basics quickly and don’t need to depend upon technology for charging, connecting, downloading, or upgrading.

Traditional books can add beauty to our lives.

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I always feel a bit strange when I enter a home without books.  Even if wasn’t a “ravenous reader”, I would miss their presence – One open here or there to a photograph of the current season, or (in the kitchen) a cookbook open to the illustration of a recipe I might never prepare; a “mini-collection” related titles piled next to my chair; or my shelf of favorite decorating books in the office. Walls of books can be beautiful for the color and texture they add to our rooms, and a home library will always be at the top of my “house hunters” fantasy list, ahead of a home theater, room-sized closet, or outdoor kitchen.

Traditional books can be the perfect gift, legacy, or donation.

Most of us who love books come to a place where we simply have too many.  Some of my most treasured are in line to be given to friends who I know will appreciate them, family members who will understand their personal value, or to organizations, such as our Friends of the Library, that will make sure that they have second lives in readers’ hearts and hands.

For those of you who are still wondering if traditional, bound books are my “favorite” format for reading, I will refer you to the beginning of this post. I have listed the reasons and occasions when they are my preference note, but I would stop at saying they are my favorites, just as I would with my children. I am grateful that I don’t have to choose!

In my next two posts, I will write about ebooks and audiobooks, and why they are sometimes what I would prefer, but not my “favorite” format. That has yet to be invented and I doubt that it ever will be.

Question:  What book format do you usually favor?  Under what circumstances do you depart from it?