I cannot hide the fact that I have yet to finish reading The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley, written in 1919. In fact, I have only three pages resting in the depths of my reader’s mind. But, read this (in the book it is posted on a placard just inside the bookshop):
THIS SHOP IS HAUNTED by the ghosts
Of all great literature, in hosts;
We sell no fakes or trashes.
Lovers of books are welcome here,
No clerks will babble in your ear,
Please smoke–but don’t drop ashes!
Browse as long as you like.
Prices of all books plainly marked.
If you want to ask questions, you’ll find the proprietor
where the tobacco smoke is thickest.
We pay cash for books.
We have what you want, though you may not know
you want it.
Malnutrition of the reading faculty is a serious
Let us prescribe for you.
By R. & H. Mifflin,
Is not that utterly delightful??? Imagine a world wherein there are no gadgets of distraction, no being pestered by sales people, no fake books posing as “easy to carry, easy to download” contraptions! Isn’t it grand? How I long for a world where bookshops–a place that ought to never be in danger–do not suffer closure and abandonment simply because people find the artificiality of reading via a computer sufficient.
How I adore the smell of fresh ink, the crack of a binding as I open a book for the first time, the ridges of glue against the strings, the rustling of pages, the feel of a just-finished book against my chest as I cling to it like a teddy bear from my youth. Can any of this be achieved with a pseudo-book? Not a chance! With a pseudo-book all I get is cold, hard plastic, a power button, and a download time. For reading? I am being tempted to swear in British in order to help reiterate how lousy that is.
Give me stacks and towers of books, the dusty smell of aging, fingerprints of readers past, and the guilty pleasure of handing cash over to a worker and receiving a receipt as evidence that I do indeed own a new book; a real book that I can hold in my hands and place on my shelf upon completion. Mmmmm…. Sounds of contentment escape my lips just thinking about it. Again, can this be accomplished with pseudo-books? No. Pseudo-books lack a quality akin to only receiving sustenance through a pill instead of through the thrilling tastes and smells of real food.
There is no comparison.