Occasionally when my inbox makes that “ping” sound, waiting for me is an email from my father-in-law. Sometimes it’s just a goofy joke or a shared article. Sometimes it’s a post from the media ecology mailing list. Other times it’s something special, such as a document brought back from the UK just the other day by his son (my brother-in-law), Andrew.
A good Booke is the precious Life-blood of a master Spirit, imbalam’d and treasur’d up on purpose to a Life beyond life.
Books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a Potency of Life in them to be as active as that Soul was whose Progeny they are; nay they do preserve as in a Vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living Intellect that bred them.
John Milton, Areopagitica (1644)
The sentiment of this brief quote from English poet, John Milton (1608-1674) echoes my own feelings towards books, and I’m certain, my father-in-law’s as well.
While I’m generally enthusiastic about digital books, I caveat it with the simple understanding that digital is not the answer for everything. Some books just don’t belong trapped as backlit ones and zeros. Instead the illumination of these books comes from their physical existence — from the impact they have in three dimensions. The loss of that would be a terrible tragedy.