Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house. ~ Henry Ward Beecher ~
I love books — and I mean love them. I love the scents of fresh paper and ink. I love the fragrance of ancient, yellowed paper, the musty smell of dust and the texture of refined wood. I love all that books represent — years of interests, study, and personal growth. On my bookshelves, you’ll find books about traveling through Europe on a bicycle, acupuncture and massage, spiritual practices, economics, memoir, nonfiction essays, literary fiction, science fiction fantasy, history, photography, textbooks, children’s books, and more. Much more.
I also love e-books. I love their convenience. No lack of bookshelf space! I can bring an entire library with me wherever I go. And, with an Internet connection, a world of books is literally at my fingertips (and bank account). I can highlight and annotate sections of text without ruining the pristine white space in my book (I have a thing against writing in books; maybe I’ll write more about that in a later post), and search entire books for specific words or phrases. With my e-reader on hand, I feel unlimited, unencumbered, and empowered. And yet … there is this one thing I truly miss about buying my books in electronic form: bookshelf browsing.
I take great pleasure in browsing other people’s bookshelves. I learn so much about the way they think, and their past and present interests, by seeing what they read and what they keep around on their shelves. I get introduced to some great books and authors I may not otherwise encounter. I also enjoy when other people browse my bookshelves; it’s the fast track to getting to know each other.
With the inevitable future conversion to interactive, electronic reading forms (Like it or not, you know that’s where we’re headed, don’t you? I mean, how many of you listen to your music on a turntable? In fact, how many of you still listen to your music on a CD player? For most of us these days, an mp3 player does the heavy lifting), what will happen to browsing one another’s bookshelves?
Fairly recently (yes, I know I’m behind the times), I was introduced to GoodReads, a virtual bookshelf. You can add books to your library as owned or wished for, as read, currently reading, and to read. You can rate books, write reviews, and make recommendations. It’s also a social networking site, so you can interact with “friends,” discuss books, write reviews, sell, exchange, and loan books. It’s a great concept. What’s not to like?
Only this: it takes time. You have to enter each book you read (I can’t even imagine entering all the books on my physical bookshelves, let alone the ones on my e-reader). And if you want to fully participate, you could spend hours every day on the site. I would love to do that, but frankly, I just don’t have the time. Besides, it destroys the random discovery and insight of browsing the bookshelves of a new acquaintance.
Yes, I created an account, and yes I entered a few books, mostly because when you sign up, they give you a list of books you can mark as read, owned, or want to read, as well as rate those you’ve read. I suppose I could start fresh and just enter books I’m currently reading. But given the choice between actually reading and writing, or spending time on a social networking site about reading, I’ll usually choose the former.
What about you? Do you love bookshelf browsing? Do you think we’ll create some wonderful, convenient way of sharing our shelves with one another? What’s your vision for the future of book browsing?
Image Credit and quote source: Ozyman