I realize that there are a lot of people out there who enjoy books for a variety of reasons: plots, characters, information, escapism, and so on. I love books for all these reasons. Beyond that, I just love books.
I love the smell of them, the earthy woodiness of the paper and binding glue. I enjoy the heft and the solidity of a hardback. These are things I've never felt from an electronic reader.
Still, I see the value of having an entire library available on a single device, so I have tried to analyze my reluctance to embrace this exciting new technology. Surely there must be a reason for the intense loyalty I feel for my bound pages. You'll need to bear with me until the end of this, but here is what I've come up with:
State Dependent Learning - This is a recognized factor in the educational realm. The idea is that your memories are tied together with your physical state and surroundings. The usefulness of this is immediately obvious. Here's some examples:
- If you're studying for a test, try to simulate the exact conditions of the test, you'll remember the material better
- If you tapped your pencil when you learned it, you should tap your pencil when you try to remember it
- If you were listening to a certain song when you read something, hearing that same song will light up the memories you had of that subject and your surroundings
Perception of Reality - There is a significant part of the human brain that cannot tell the difference between a real events and imagined ones. For proof, you need to look no further than a person getting goosebumps or being startled at a scary movie. While the tiny bit at the front of your brain knows that it is all pretend, the rest of your brain is freaking out thinking that an attack is imminent.
Sports trainers are just barely beginning to catch on to this fascinating phenomenon. Using mental imagery has often been as effective as actual physical practice in refining reflexes. Wrestlers and dancers who have been out of the game for months due to injury have suddenly burst back on the scene as good as ever, just from picturing their moves and routines as they lay in bed.
The Wrap-Up - So let's combine these things and re-examine what was really happening during those thousands of hours that I spent reading, my head bowed over a book as if in prayer. My mind believed in what it was seeing unravel in the words of books.
I have flown. I have dived. I have been wounded and crawling, no friends for miles. I have fought nobly, demons before me and innocents at my back. I have fallen in love and felt glorified as the object of my affection grew to love me as they saw the sincerity of my soul. These experiences were real to my mind and helped form my whole life and character as I bled, suffered, and loved with my companions in history and fiction.
Through the miracle of state dependent learning, all of these magnificent experiences have been tied together, bound into one universal symbol: books. When I hold a book in my hands I feel the weight of it, I smell the ink and leave fingerprints on the cover. These miniscule experiences trigger echoes in my mind, lighting up synapses and calling up all the emotions and excitement of the many full lives I've lived. How could I ever move past such a bond?
I love books.