Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Scribes, Skins and Screens

My Kindle
    "History plays odd jokes sometimes, and it seems a prank that the first to use a true alphabet should be a people with no literature at all."

     My disease is probably hereditary. I suspect my Father. It isn't painful, though at times it can be annoying. The description is as follows:

     Bibliomania or Book-Madness from the Greek biblion=book + mania=madness. Behavioral disorder caused by bacterial infection, bacilli librorum (attributed to Eugene Field). Common symptoms include the uncontrollable urge to acquire and hoard books, indiscriminate bookstore hopping, and delusions of authorship, which alone or in combination may result in prolonged disruption of daily life. The more severe forms of bibliomania may involve recurring incidents of bibliokleptomania (book theft) and/or lying about supposed ownership of titles. No cure is known to exist... 
     It began, I think, when I discovered a shelf of books in the basement- The World's Great Literature in twenty volumes. As my fingers touched the words of Stevenson, Poe, H.G. Wells and a host of others, the infection began. The very smell of the paper... the feel of the paper was a thing of wonder. I knew something was happening that I did not want to end. Several volumes from the shelf assimilated into my DNA. The feeling returns when I enter a used-book store; when I see that the well-crafted book I am holding is a first edition, causing a stirring in my inner-man (I once discovered a first edition To Kill A Mockingbird in a Memphis Goodwill- $1.00... still in the original dust jacket). 

Some old friends

     And so, when Joshua gave me a Kindle for Christmas my first thought was, 'What will I do with this?' It feels cold. The pages are stored beneath a screen of plastic. It smells of... well, it doesn't have a smell. Books are supposed to smell. And what about the books of old, carefully produced on handmade paper and animal skins (each Gutenberg Bible printed on Vellum required the lives of 170 young calves). Little did I know. 
     My Kindle currently holds 126 titles. There are, beneath my screen, four Bibles, two dictionaries and works by Thoreau, Ruskin, Kant, Kierkegaard, Aquinas and my old friends Stevenson, Poe and Wells. I confess- Kindle is convenient, and, no animals were harmed in the making of it. According to The Association of American Publishers, 3.4 million ebook units sold last year. Thanks to Project Gutenberg, I can download 39,000 ebooks- free. I can even download articles as a PDF.  If only it had the right smell.

  Alas, I can always go to the library for my bibliofix. 
A shelf in my library (Fort Mill Public Library)


  1. A first edition To Kill A Mockingbird... still in the original dust jacket)? For a buck???
    You are living right ;-) God is showing you favor.
    I have a friend who owned a signed copy of one of Mark Twain’s books. As she was spring cleaning one day, she tossed it. Why? In her then state of charismania, some dragon reference led her to believe it was demonic. Imagine.

  2. We do strange things at times. e.g., The copy of To Kill A Mockingbird... I gave to another teacher. He nearly fainted. One classic I did keep is an autographed copy of The Citadel by A.J. Cronin.