The Value of Books

At the moment of writing I live in the year 2014. Of all my possessions I value one set of possessions in particular, namely my books. From the moment I could read well enough books were my portal into acquiring knowledge. I grew up without the internet until I was twelve. Occasionally I still add books to my collection and pass on those books I no longer intend to read. My appreciation for books might seem odd in this digital age I am part of and can even be called ironic. Even so I value books more than the abundance of information on the internet.

The first reason why I consider books as valuable as they are is simple. I can hold a book in my hand and read it for myself in the presence of enough light. Having a book at my disposal to read at any given time of my liking is a luxury I highly appreciate. The physical book makes it possible to comfortably sit down and just read without turning on any screened device.

Additionally there is the tactile feel of reading a book. The appreciation for holding a book in one’s hands and turning the pages is very subjective to preferences. Some people love it because holding an appreciated and desired object gives the feeling of possession. The book becomes like a house one owns and opening the door is the same as opening the book. The door gives access to rooms and walls full of knowledge.

Furthermore having a book in one’s hands also gives complete control. When reading a physical book the reader can turn the pages and close the book at any moment. This control extends to more than just reading. Because the book is present, all the contents are present and can be easily re-read. Having a book available to read gives the reader control over the reading process.

In defence of the media on the internet I have to admit that there are websites that offer pleasantly designed and presented texts. Some of these websites provide reading options for zooming in, screen size, download versions, printing and search functions. Usually such websites end up in my favourites lists. The internet offers the possibility to relatively freely search for that publication one needs and make it available for oneself.

The biggest downside to website publications is the given that they are on the internet. I have experienced that it can become difficult to backtrack the internet locations of a publications. Without routinely saving locations either on-line or off-line the search starts all over. It also happens that the website publication is moved and archived and placed behind a wall. This wall can mean that an account is needed or a payment has to be made. Combined with the seemingly limitless amount of information available searching for information on the internet can become challenging. As such internet searches require that one knows how to search and collect information. There is a complex learning curve to effectively finding information on the internet.

In addressing the learning curves I have to mention books. Sometimes books are notoriously difficult to read. The difficulties often lie in whether the book is a specialist purpose publication, the use of jargon and its size in general. I experience these difficulties to be minor with some preparations once the book is found. When the book is present one look at the title, author, the table of contents and introduction give enough information to have an idea of what to expect. Since it is one book, one only needs to define the subject of the book and the most important concepts around it before reading it and making notes. Even if I would have dozens of books to look into I can simply repeat my basic routine per book and decide afterwards whether the book is relevant to me as a source.

In general the most important reason for me to appreciate books is their inherent tangible and imperishable characteristic. More than just being able to hold and read a book in my hand I do not need to rely on anything else but light. On top of that there is the fact that books can survive a lifetime in good conditions. Sometimes books survive for centuries and their content can still be shared. Books have a historic advantage due to their relative durability. When I find an interesting book I can purchase it, read it and store it to read it whenever I want to throughout my life. The long term luxury of storing a book for re-reading is a reward in itself.

In stating the obvious with the long term luxuries of collecting books there is the historical and thus cultural aspect of possessing books. Every book is published on a given date and year. Within six months to three or more years a book can often still be called contemporary. When books are more than five to ten years old the books often start becoming dated. Dated books always have to be interpreted as works of their particular time and culture. What applies in a book of twenty years ago might have changed in many ways right now. Sometimes the subject matter has aged little to nothing and the book can still be considered relevant. Opinions and reviews are often good indicators for how relevant a book can still be. The age of a book is an important indicator of its usability.

There are many aspects in the determining the value of books as carriers of information. In comparison with my and society’s dependence on the internet I still value my collection of book more. I am aware that excellent websites exist and the vast quantities of information that are out there. I appreciate the many search and storage options and I can live with learning routines to ease and improve my information searches. Yet in the long term I value books more. Books are tangible, collectible and do not perish in good storage conditions. It is certain that my younger years without the internet are also a factor. The value of books exceeds the abundant quantity of information on the internet based on my personal preferences. How much one appreciates something is a personal matter after all.

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