Oh, my God! I just heard of the niftiest invention. It's called a print book. It ages well and doesn't get obsolete. In fact, I've heard rumors that the value of first printings, especially copies signed by the author, often increases with age. If you're lucky, your town has a store full of them. You can pick up as many as you want, turn them over, shake them out, glance at this page and that, weigh the volume in your hands, and decide if it's a good fit. If you can't afford to spend a few bucks for a new one, you can go to another place, even bigger than the store, where you can borrow an armload or a bag-load of them at a time (for free!) and take them home with you for a month or two. And if you decide after a few pages that you don't like the one you started to read, it's no big deal. Just set it aside and drop it off next time you pass by the city library.

My friend David claims that last winter the weather turned bad and his town had a long power outage and all his electronic gadgets soon became useless. He saysa lot of people got bored to death, but he simply opened a book, wrapped himself into a quilt, sat close to his candle, and read non-stop until he finished the whole thing and the power came back on. He actually put the book on a shelf afterwards. That's when he discovered books look quite nice lined up that way. Best room decorating trick he ever learned, he told me. Whole walls covered with shelves laden with books of all sizes and shapes and colors. Amazingly real. No batteries required. These days, David loves visiting people and glancing at their shelves. He tells me you can tell a lot about a person by how many books she has in her home, and by reading the titles. And if you're lucky and you find somebody who shares your tastes, he might even let you borrow a few. For as long as you want, David said. .

He tried to convince me that I should get a few real books, too. I saw no reason to switch from my trusty e-reader. It's such a nifty little gadget to hold, so shiny and clean. But then he reminded me about the last one I bought, the one I lost. Even though I looked high and low for it, it never turned up again and I had to buy a new one. Not cheap. According to David, losing a print book is much less traumatic. He even claims real books can become friends. How crazy is that? To cinch his argument, he picked up a mid-sized book without warning and tossed it at me. It dropped onto his marble floor. As I stood frozen, horrified, he walked over, bent down, picked it up, dusted it off, and handed it to me. It wasn't even broken.

Then David pulled out all the stops. Print books, he said, are made out of paper. They decompose. E-readers are made from plastic. The best you can do with a broken e-reader is toss it in a pile of other useless e-readers, along with all the other plastic gadgets the human race is accumulating that won't go away after we do. And, David said, humans have something called a tactile sense. A person is actually SUPPOSED to touch lots of things, hold them in his hands. He said that's what skin is for. And if you don't use that tactile sense any more, it might diminish. Pretty soon you can't feel as much as you used to. Like those bugs the scientists discovered, the ones that live in very dark caves. After a few generations of baby bugs who didn't need to see anything in these dark caves, their bug eyes went away.

Right there David scored a point, but you know what really won me over? I'm a writer. A couple of my books have glossaries in back. You can't access them very well on an e-reader. An e-reader likes to plod slowly from one page to the next to the next. With a real book, believe it or not, all you have to do is flip—quick as a wink—from wherever you are to the glossary and back again. Okay, now I'm impressed. I think I might get one. Or two. Or a dozen. Then David and I can trade. Because, as it turns out, we do have the same taste in books. Among other things.


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    Kris Heywood lives and writes in a small mountain town of Oregon.