Saturday, October 23, 2010

What good are books?

Books delight us when prosperity smiles upon us; they comfort us inseparably when stormy fortune frowns on us. They lend validity to human compacts, and no serious judgments are propounded without their help. Arts and sciences, all the advantages of which no mind can enumerate, consist in books. How highly must we estimate the wondrous power of books, since through them we survey the utmost bounds of the world and time, and contemplate the things that are as well as those that are not, as it were in the mirror of eternity. In books we climb mountains and scan the deepest gulfs of the abyss; in books we behold the finny tribes that may not exist outside of their native waters, distinguish the properties of streams and springs and of various lands; from books we dig out gems and metals and the materials of every ,,kind of mineral, and learn the virtues of herbs and trees and plants, and survey at will the wholy progeny of Neptune, Ceres, and Pluto.

Books are masters who instruct us without words of anger, without bread or money. If you approach them they are not asleep. If you seek them, they do not hide, if you blunder they do not scold, if you are ignorant, they do not laugh at you.

-- Richard de Bury --


There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry --
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll --
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human soul.

-- Emily Dickinson --

I wonder if in 2050 AD, someone will sit down and write: "Kindles delight us when prosperity smiles upon us; they comfort us inseparably when stormy fortune frowns upon us . . ."


"There is no Frigate like a Kindle . . ."


  1. To me, a "book" is the words that make the story. I don't get hung up anymore on where those words are physically placed. I used to be one of those who loved the feel, the weight, the smell of books on paper. Since I started reading ebooks ( first on a PDA, then on ipod/ipad), I'd much rather have multiple books/short stories with me in my small purse at all times than one paper book I have to remember to take with me. It was a great comfort to be able to have all that on a small device when I was ill and undergoing multiple-hour long chemo treatments. I still read paper books - from the library - if it's not in ebook form. There are pros and cons to both formats, but I just personally prefer ebooks.

  2. Cheryl,

    I would define a book as the combination of covers, pages, and text, and the physical experience of holding it in my hand and turning the pages. I think ebooks would provide a different experience. In any case, the ebook is probably the Way of the future.

    Taoists say that one should never be the first to take up the new nor the last to lay down the old. I, most likely, will be guilty of the latter error.

  3. This has certainly set me thinking.

    A book, while linked to technology, seems to float in a realm of its own.

  4. Photographe a Dublin,

    An interesting thought. Books have now invaded cyberspace.

  5. I thought you might enjoy this...

    The image of reading a medieval manuscript in bed is quite amusing.

  6. Photographe a Dublin,

    Chuckle. Reminds me of a Monty Python sketch.