When I was a youngster, the family library was referred to as Lee’s Room. My favorite times of those early years were not my birthdays, nor Christmas Eve, nor anything related to gift giving; rather, it was those days when the annuals came. These were the yearly updates, the information of which had been gathered and reassembled from various news sources from around the world during the year, each volume of which would take up one to two more inches of shelf space for The Encyclopedia Americana, the Encyclopedia Britannica, The World Book, The Book of Knowledge, The encyclopedia of Lands and People, and The Encyclopedia of Popular Science. And oh yes, there were more.
On the day of delivery I started at the copyright section of whatever annual had arrived, progressing through the pages, reading and occasionally re-reading until having devoured the last word of the last paragraph of the very last page.
On one such warm, sunny afternoon – I don’t remember which of these books came during the summer – I was reading an article on the history of aircraft, my eyes focused on a collection of photographs, one of a bi-plane, another of a tri-winged airplane, another of a WWII single engine fighter and yet another of a jet fighter. There may have been others but the reason these images are burned into my memory is because as I stared at these black and white photographic reproductions of brief moments in time, I heard above our house, the sound of a jet plane; this was in the late forties. These flying war machines had helped to end the war. I wanted to see it with my own eyes.
I ran outside and looked into the sky, following the vapor trail until I spotted the jet. And, as I allowed my field of vision to expand, I was drawn to another area of the sky by the sound of a propeller driven aircraft, where I saw verification of the other three flying machines that I’d seen a few minutes earlier on the pages of my newest favorite book.
My point in sharing this story is to confess that not only do I still own most of those books; they are still in Lee’s Room. I refer to them often.
My love for the musty aroma of aging pages will not deter me from the world of eBooks; indeed I’m currently creating three such books in that very medium. But, if I live another thirty years, I intend to buy real books, with hand-sewn bindings. The love and respect that I feel for those who went to so much trouble to preserve this knowledge for future generations is relived and reaffirmed every time I carefully turn a page, each time deftly avoiding any chance of bending a corner. For me the eBook can never replace the hardbound reference tools which have made my life such a grand occasion. People have let me down. I have let myself down. But the inhabitants of Lee’s Room? Never.