Smell a good book lately?

Unlike digital books and magazines, the print media conveys more than just ideas or concepts via symbols relayed to the brain from the eye.  A printed book, magazine, newspaper, or even a mailing envelope can stimulate all five senses.  It is understandable that many travelers and RVers prefer e-books and the convenience and light weight of electronic devices that can hold hundreds of books, but I prefer the wonder of a book that can only be fully experienced and appreciated as an integral whole.

I was excited last week to receive an out-of-print copy of Desert Years: Undreaming the American Dream, by Cynthia Rich, who, along with her domestic partner Barbara Macdonald, spent 6 years (1983-1989) full-timing in a trailer at Agua Caliente County Park, where we camped earlier this month.

DSC_0239 Cynthia Rich, "Desert Years"

Cynthia wrote about life and social issues there, which enriches our understanding and appreciation of our favorite desert campground.

DSC_0224 "Desert Years" back cover

As I carefully removed this 25-year-old book from its plastic storage bag, its musty smell transported me back in time, even before reading it.  (There’s a chemical reason why old books smell so good.*)

I currently subscribe to two magazines, Macworld and Airstream Life.  I brought along their latest issues to read on our last camping trip.  I was saddened to learn that I was holding the last printed issue of Macworld, after 30 years of publication.  The remaining issues of my subscription are available online and include hyperlinks for expanded content (as I do here), but the experience will not be the same for me.  I like to see and feel its full-sized, glossy cover and enjoy its fresh smell as I flip through its pages, often back to front, and pause when I see something interesting.

DSC_0034 Last Macworld print issue!

Economics are accelerating the demise of the print media,* as evidenced in our thinning daily newspaper that is yielding fewer pages for lining our cockatoo cage.  I don’t mind paying more for a good, printed book or a magazine that can provide a total and satisfying sensory experience.  I like to feel the weight and denseness of a quality book, along with the texture of its pages.  I like to see its pages as they age and perhaps reveal a reader’s underlined word or phrase, a scribbled note, a drop of coffee or wine or a telltale dog-ear, smudge or teardrop.  I like to hear it as I turn the page or quickly fan through its pages, and then close it and set it down.  Sometimes, I even find the taste of glue interesting on the magazine’s renewal envelope!

Fortunately, Airstream Life still publishes a printed magazine (digital issues are available for iPad via iTunes).  I bring along the current print issue on every camping trip to enjoy reading and displaying it in our magazine rack, or on our table as it beckons to be rediscovered, read, and photographed!

DSC_0030 Airstream Life and books

Another feature of printed media is that it can be signed in ink by the author, which can enhance its sentimental and/or economic value.

DSC_0215 Signed by the author

And of course, books are magical* and make great gifts!

Andy Rooney once said, “If you had to make a list of all the good things in the world, books would be right up there near the top.“*

Thank you, Cynthia Rich, for your work and inspiration!

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Comments

  1. Rich Luhr says

    Very interesting post! I expect that Airstream Life will be one of the last magazines left in print, since most of our subscribers agree with you about the value of the tactile print reading experience.

    Still, even Airstream Life will have a fully digital subscription available, starting in 2015. My view is that we should provide the content that people value, in any format they care to read it. My guess is that the vast majority will continue to choose print for many years to come.

  2. Bill D. says

    Thank you, Rich, for the reassurance that Airstream Life will continue to be a tactile reading experience for years to come.

    So I just wrote a check renewing my subscription, but I must say that the taste of the glue on the renewal envelope could be spiced up a bit… perhaps by spices from the orient or seasonal spices such as peppermint for the holidays!

  3. Bill D. says

    Comment received from insightout:

    “Aside from the tactile sensation of a good book or magazine, you never have to change the battery.

    The only recharge necessary is the 6″ between our ears.

    My fear [is] that our grandchildren will never experience the exhilaration of opening a long neglected book, the narcotic effect of mildew, and discover they don’t know everything.”