February 27, 2007

My friends sometimes rib me about my fetish for collectible books. Especially after I've done one of my "print is dead" bits. Why do I continue to pour money into a media that is becoming increasingly obsolete? That's a very, very good question.

I suppose some of it has to do with my roots. From an early age, I was fascinated with books. Consequently, I was an avid reader. It's not that I scoured anything and everything in print, but I heavily attacked genres such as science fiction and fantasy. I can still clearly recall my bitter disappointment in junior high school (yes, I went to JUNIOR high school) when my English class was assigned Catcher in the Rye while another class was given Fahrenheit 451.

Back in my day, the internet effectively didn't exist. It was a struggle simply to connect a Commodore 64 to a dial-up BBS at 300 baud. As such, the vast majority of accessible information lay in books.

The internet has changed everything to the point that books themselves are becoming unnecessary. Some might even argue wasteful, what with the manufacturing costs associated with paper documents. Indeed, the very concept of "book" is changing to mean simply a like collection of data that's been organized, segmented, and virtually "published" in some fashion.

However, the internet has one terrible Achilles' Heal. It requires electricity and a means to access a data source with a device capable of doing so. IOW, a steep technological hill has to be climbed before someone can be considered "online". While this may not be an issue in the home or at work, what might you do if on an airplane, in a taxi, or on a camping trip? Laptops? Portable media devices, such as IPods? That's all well and fine, but what do all mobile electronic devices need? Batteries. And if the batteries run down or become unable to hold a charge, it's back to the dark ages with ye!

I suppose this is why I'm still fascinated with books, for they require no technology to use and are therefore "timeless". Living in Florida, I've experienced days in which my entire community has been without power. It's miserable, especially from a hygiene standpoint. But books have always been there to provide much-needed relief. With enough light and my glasses, I can immerse myself in a captivating book for hours.

It is for this reason, among others, that books will always hold an attraction for me. And it is also why I respect and admire publishers who produce lavish, capstone editions of titles of which I have an interest. These versions are "definitive" embodiments, signed & numbered or lettered, with a special emphasis on the look and feel of the books themselves. A "deluxe" book is like nothing else on the planet and something worth producing and displaying proudly.

However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't be careful with your purchases. Simply because a company produces "be-all, end-all" editions of particular titles does NOT mean they're worth the asking price, especially expensive lettered editions with very little value-enhancing elements. Be wary, be alert, and try to gather as much information as you can before shelling-out hundreds of dollars. Otherwise, you WILL regret your purchase.