to read a book is human

26 February 2012

I like books; perhaps in some cases I love them. I don’t consider myself an avid reader, or at least to the degree I aspire. Yet, I enjoy the experience of reading a book. As an architect, I am also a collector. What architect doesn’t have a great library? If you don’t, start collecting buddy.

Tonight I am merely cataloging my thoughts after months or years of thinking about this. Our culture’s opinion and need for a book, made from paper with an exterior binding, one that you hold in your hands is changing rapidly. With technology marching on without asking opinions, the book as Mr. Gutenberg envisioned it may soon be gone. We haven’t even reached a 600 year milestone of getting learning to the masses and words may soon be found only LED screens. Will those of the current generation care? Will the tomes that fill libraries around the world, inspired by early Alexandria, Ebla and Pergamum remain for those in the decades to come to appreciate? Will those books characterize our history as people, as humans?

My purposes for this are not to persuade, predict or even prevent what the future brings. Perhaps I am only interested in mere eristic arguments. However, as I found myself reading more lately, I simply noticed how delightful it is to hold a book, turn the pages and feel the paper in my hands as I read. I don’t see how the current e-readers could ever replace that. I understand the convenience, cost savings and fascination, but that doesn’t change my preference. Did you ever pick up an old book and smell the age on it? Do you listen to the crackling as you turn the page? Do you take care with the dry pages to avoid a paper cut?

In my work, I use many reference sources, but in particular I commonly refer to building codes as I design. For the benefit of expense and space, I purchase the ICC code series on a DVD. However, I find it so much easier to flip through the pages as I do my research than to scroll through the screen. I force myself to work on my screen continually telling myself this method is more cost-effective and contemporary. I don’t like it. I’d rather have the printed pages, despite the sacrifice of our tree friends. I also appreciate reading magazines which (forgive me) I receive in print form over digital. Out of necessity, I use the internet daily, reading on my screen.

I suppose in my lifetime, books that are real, paper books will remain. We are still building libraries despite the massive change in how they are used today versus the whispering stone halls found in past few centuries. I actually enjoy that they have become cultural centers where you don’t get “shhhh’d by spinster librarians. Yet as I teach the next generation of architects, I find they are slow to visit the university library in favor of Google.

Call me ancient, call me a dinosaur, but I find the act of reading a book, held in one’s hands where other senses are part of the experience to be an essential part of being human. Obviously my argument is limited by the past few centuries than the few millennia of human existence, but I just believe without any objective argument, that people need physical books. It’s part of our identity.

The irony here is you are reading this on a digital device.

photos are from my library, where else?

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12 Responses to “to read a book is human”

  1. ray truitt Says:

    books are our friends
    but more so
    are
    our thoughts
    however they are stored or retrieved

    yep,
    I like books
    but I’m an old guy

  2. Kai Gutschow Says:

    Here’s to the paper book, and an office full of all sorts of paper… I think news of the book’s demise is greatly exaggerated, though our generation does have an obligation to teach the next about it, like classical music or good poetry, probably.


  3. It is true, there is something very sensuous about holding a book curled up on a comfortable chair under a reading lamp…

  4. David Says:

    Paper is great for reference books, including picture books, and “how to” books. I don’t read much literary fiction, so for pretty much everything else, ebooks are my preference. I

  5. Jeremiah Says:

    the average book will move to the digital stratosphere. but books that mean something, that offer something more than entertainment will always be found in print form. I have a kindle fire. I love it for several reasons. but I also have an extensive library of books, architectural, educational, fiction, non-fiction, biography. and each one gets revisited from time to time. I love books. Books will always be.

    • leecalisti Says:

      i certainly wouldn’t want to own every book i’ve read. however, a paper book seems to be easier on my eyes. i have no problem with e-readers for many types of books, especially a fiction book that you’ll breeze through and never pick up again. but i prefer to read a paper version much like i enjoy reading a real newspaper.

  6. Hasselaar Says:

    Nice article!
    When searching in a book, by example for references, I am more concentrated… searching on the internet is always effected with adds and banners and other crap.
    We always want to have books!

    • leecalisti Says:

      I wouldn’t want to live in a world like the futuristic movies where everything is digital. Of course I also don’t need every book I read to be physical either.


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