Cusp of books

books

BOOKS WRITTEN on tree cuttings are a dying breed, but many still embrace them, which amuses me.

Most people go their entire lives without reading a book that wasn’t required in school. Let us pity them. But for those of us who do read, who do know what’s going on in the world, who have active minds, there are now two camps.

Electronic and paper. The future and the past. Modern and old-fashioned. Convenient and, well, less so. Hip versus fuddy-duddy. I, of course, am in the hip category, the future, the modern, the convenient.

For those of us who live in Mexico but read books in English (though I speak Spanish, I never read books in Spanish), electronic books like the Kindle are a blessing because finding works in English can be challenging especially if you live far from Gringo havens like San Miguel de Allende and Ajijic. In those places, they have periodic book sales which, I imagine, amounts to everybody switching books, kind of like musical chairs.

So you better hope that someone who shares your tastes lives nearby. The better option, of course, is the Kindle or something similar where you can get about anything you want out of cyberspace. And trees are not involved.

We have three Kindles here at the Hacienda, but before they arrived (express-mailed separately to our front door in short order, not smuggled, which is the way most folks here get them), we brought books back from the United States during raiding expeditions to Texas. The used-book chain Half Price Books was always on our itinerary in San Antonio.

We have not been in the United States since 2008, making the Kindles even more valuable.

The shelves in the photo are in our living room. The first few years here it was an active location, but now it’s a museum. Nothing has been added there in years, but books look good, makes you look bright and provides a warm, learned atmosphere.

There are photos too. For the curious among us, they are, left to right, me sitting on the rocky shore of a river in the redwoods of Northern California. I am talking to Isabel Allende (House of the Spirits) and her husband, Mickey; the house in the Florida Panhandle where I took life-altering entheogens in 1997; my child bride; my mother who died in 2009; finally, me at the age of 26 on the Georgia farm.

A sharp eye will note the book with the swastika about midway between my mother and my wife. Aha, some will say, I knew all along he was a Nazi. But two books farther to the right show Mao. And between those two sits Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. The book with the swastika is the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and the book about the Chairman is Mao: The Unknown Story.

That last book, a biography, is particularly interesting because it’s only in the past decade or so that Red China has released information on the dictator to Western biographers. He was not a nice man.

But back to the cusp on which we sit. Like vinyl records and buggy whips, tree books are vanishing, soon to be of interest only to collectors and fuddy-duddies. The modern among us prefer our reads on a screen these days.

26 thoughts on “Cusp of books”

    1. Peter: I am not, and have never been, a Christian, so no Bible reading for me, but I believe there is a Spanish edition sitting on the shelf somewhere. I do encourage Christianity for others, however. I am a fan of the religion if not a follower.

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      1. No Bible here either, Felipe. I am in the process of copying all my CDs to my iPad and the cloud back-up. To have books is nice. I have most of the classics on iBook. Everything digital and virtual, easy to carry. Books and CDs take up too much space.

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  1. I volunteer at one of the best-organized exchange English language libraries in Mexico. Having done my share of sailing down the Mexico coast and looking for libraries all along the way, I think ours is by far the best. I still read dead-tree books because I read at bedtime and I have insomnia if I stare at a bright screen before trying to sleep. Our patrons (admittedly a dying breed, literally, as they are mostly over 50) also still like the feel of a book, they like that they can share books, they enjoy exploring our shelves and socializing. I even know a few who bought Kindles and now have gone back to regular books. We used to close for the summer, but I started keeping it open two hours every Friday, and our year-rounders are very grateful. We seldom have the latest releases, but they don’t seem to mind.

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  2. Vinyl is making a come-back for audiophiles, and some new pressings are being made by ” hip” artists! So, my collection of 1956-86 albums are still being played at home on my Nam era gear, as “what goes around, comes….” I also have gone digital with books on my ipad. No TV here in SMA, so three weeks of reading bliss in the evenings! I access “TUEBL.ca” for my downloads. Have a look at their collection. You might find something of interest…
    Cheers!

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    1. Dan: I have no doubt the vinyl is making a bit of a comeback, but it will remain an area for a small number of odd people. You will even hear some folks say vinyl sounds better than CDs. That is arrant nonsense, but folks will think what they want. I took a look at TUEBL.ca. Interesting, but the download process is not as smooth as buying for the Kindle directly from Amazon. When I run out of titles on Amazon, I will look at other sources. Just like when I run out of books in English, I’ll start reading them in Spanish. I doubt I will run out of books on Amazon or books in English in my lifetime, so …

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  3. I hate the Kindle, and I feel ever so sorry for those who’ve been seduced by it. It’s like storing all your music on 8-track.

    There will come a time, maybe even within our time, that only the well-off and seriously eccentric will have home libraries. Those dead tree books will endure when your Kindle has gone the way of the Laserdisc player and the Viewmaster. I make an effort to get real books delivered in Mexico, by one scheme or another, and it’s worth it. I can photocopy and scan pages from those books, lend them (were I only so inclined), trade them, and even sell them if times get rough. Any thousand of the books on my shelves (and there are a lot more than that) are worth far more than any thousand titles you may harbor in your Kindle. Go ahead and covet my library. I know you want to.

    There is nothing I love more than suggesting a title to someone, only to find that the title doesn’t exist in Kindle.

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    1. Ms. Shoes: Embrace your buggy whips while you still can. When the Kindle goes the way of the Laserdisk player, as it will, it will only be replaced by something similar but superior. I await that magic moment. As for coveting your library, I do not. As for titles not being available on the Kindle, it is only matter of time because more are added every day. Meanwhile, there are far more available than I need.

      Now, don’t the mules in the barn need more hay?

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  4. Without Gutenberg there probably would not have been a Renaissance in Europe and we would still be living in ignorance and feudalism. Paper books have had a good run from 1439 to present day. Paper books have totally transformed mankind for the better.

    The first library I visited was in Pipestone, Minnesota, established by the robber baron Andrew Carnegie. A total of 2,509 Carnegie libraries were built between 1883 and 1929, including some belonging to public and university library systems. 1,689 were built in the United States, helping to make the United States the world power it is today.

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    1. Andrés: Even in our post-Gutenberg era, most still live in ignorance, and many still live in feudalism. (Obama freed five of those feudalists a few days back.)

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  5. So I assume you will be loading “Hard Choices” by HRC onto the Kindle ASAP…or you could order it through Amazon…and I agree with Ms. Red Shoes as I do love the smell of a new book when first opened…saludos!

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    1. Charles: Forge on with those dreams of a President Hillary. It is amusing. As for the smell of a new book, yes, it is nice. And so is the leather aroma of a new bridle or buggy whip. Fun but old-fashioned.

      I am hip, modern, an embracer of the Kindle.

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      1. Kindle fans run the risk, not inconsequential, of letting Big Brother know what they’ve been reading. And that same power can make the Kindle fan’s library vaporize. None of that’s gonna happen to my print library.

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        1. Ms. Shoes: I don’t care if Barry knows what I am reading. As for my Kindle library vanishing, I don’t care about that either (even though it ain’t gonna happen). I am a modern man. I read it. It’s done.

          Me thinks you protest too much. You’ll be a Kindle reader in time, as will we all. Your bookshelf, like mine, will become a museum, collecting dust, and you will pass it during the day, casting wistful glances at it, and remembering the good old days.

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        2. What makes you think Big Brother doesn’t already know what you’ve been reading? If you had your computer on to reply to this post, Big Brother was peeping through the key hole. And, as a frequent reader of Felipe’s rampant anti-Barry blog, you’re already on Big Brother’s watch list. Out of curiosity, do you often return to those dead tree books or are they just something else to wipe the dust off? There are too many books out there waiting to be read to worry about your past reads vaporizing. On the other hand, us older folks tend to forget that we’ve already read the book until we’ve reached the final chapters. One of the advantages of Kindle is that they’ll tell you if you’ve already bought the book. Kindle has even worked it out so we can “lend” our books to friends. After saying all this, I still miss the old funky paperbacks.

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      1. Good one Dan. Would satisfy the needs of Charles, Ms. Red Shoes, and myself. Would also like to try one of their media players (eurosport.com). They likely won’t ship to Mexico, however.

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  6. My experience with paper books is similar. We bought our first Kindle because of extended winter stays in Mexico (we couldn’t bring enough paper from NOB to get us thru). I used Half Price Book for years. We now have 3 Kindles & 2 IPads for reading everything. It took awhile for the transition, but we are converted. Saying this, I just finished the paper version of the WSJ and local, which we receive at home. Electronic versions are free if you get the paper.

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    1. Mike: I was a WSJ subscriber for years in Houston. Alas, for some reason, they refuse to drop a copy at my door here on the mountaintop. The only thing I subscribe to these days in any form is the National Review, which comes to my Kindle.

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  7. Actually, I like the smell and feel of musty old used paperbacks with corners turned as page markers. However, I’ve become a convert and have two kindles. Amazon should work on a smell app — actually two apps: one for new hardcover and one for old used paperback.

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  8. Felipe: Yours is not the first praise I’ve heard or read for the ebook. Nor are your comments about vinyl new to me. But I am a bibliophile, have been for going on six decades now, and cannot imagine ridding our home of the thousands of real books lining shelves throughout our home, or saying goodbye to the hundreds of LPs and cassettes that I still play. Maybe it’s habit, or just the warmth of familiarity, but these “fuddy-duddy” items are — and will be — a welcome part of my life for however long it continues. Enjoy your Kindles, and whatever musical media you favor. Live and let live, compadre.

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    1. Bill: Get rid of your books and records?! Why, that would be nuts. I would never propose such a thing. I enjoy seeing my old books on the shelf, and my wife has stacks of old records. They are never played, of course, because CDs and MP3s are easier.

      So, live and let live indeed.

      I intuit that you do not own a Kindle or any such thing, which is, I imagine, the case with most of us old fogies who still embrace dead-tree books, etc., and shun the new reading technology.

      Were you to get one and use it a short spell, you would never look back. I promise.

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      1. So our older daughter periodically assures me. But then, lately, I’ve begun to enjoy looking back.

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