About a year ago I bought a Kindle and now I wish I hadn’t.
I bought it because I owned a lot of books and I had to move those books several times and they were very heavy. So I thought I would buy a Kindle because that way I could still own my books but I could move them with little to no strain on my weak arms. For awhile I loved my Kindle and in a lot of ways I still love it. I love it when I need to buy a book RIGHT NOW, or when I’m packing my school bag and don’t have room for an entire collection of short stories (My morning routine looks like this every day). But even for all it’s nice features the Kindle is another screen and at the end of the day holding a little electronic device up to my face isn’t very satisfying. It doesn’t demand my attention and if i’m bored I can switch books on a whim without even looking up. When I finish a book I don’t have the satisfaction of shutting the cover and marveling at the pages I just read. If I get distracted and forget about my book for a few days my Kindle doesn’t sit on my shelf and beckon me to curl up with it. Instead it’s so slim that I generally lose it under a pile of unread magazines. It could contain the greatest tomes of literature in the world but it doesn’t matter if it’s buried under US Weekly.
The more I learn at school about the Bible and how it was written, why a certain word was chosen, or why a specific event was told, the more I realize that ideas and stories are weighty things. When God decided to write down a message to his people he wrote it as a story because he knew that stories mean something. Wars have been fought and ships have launched over mere ideas. It’s easy to throw them around carelessly on blogs or skim over them on whatever screen you happen to be viewing at the moment, but a book demands your attention. It is, quite literally, in your face and if you turn the page you don’t get a different website- you get more book. Books take time to understand and some of that time you are probably going to be bored but, more often than not, your occasional boredom is rewarded with a new perspective. The world will look a little different through the lens of a new story, that idea becomes the tipping point for a host of other new discoveries.
A few months ago I was walking around downtown Chicago through the maze of buildings and I was suddenly seized by the thought that we made all of this. This city wasn’t present at creation, these buildings and streets weren’t always here. Each brick and piece of steel was put there by a person. It’s kind of overwhelming when you think about it. I get the same sense when I walk through the library past all the shelves of books. We made all of this. People spent hours putting pen to paper, telling us who they are, and letting us into their heads page after page. If you’ve ever tried to do that you know it’s hard, much more complicated than it looks. I think we should marvel at a book the same way we marvel at a skyscraper- with respect for those who made it and wonder that such a thing is even possible.
Books are ideas and stories incarnate. And if you’re reading the right books then that incarnation is nothing less than the author’s heart. When they are real, ink and paper, I think it’s a little easier to treat them with respect and to remember that someone was brave enough to put the truest part of themselves onto paper and leave it unattended to linger on a shelf in an unknown bookstore for anyone to pick up. I probably won’t give up my Kindle and I don’t think you need to either, but I think we should all try to spend a little more time in bookstores and libraries so we don’t forget to be impressed by a story in it’s proper form.