Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Case for Books

Books for me are a bit like gardening tools. They help me do the job that sits before me and they resource me in a thousand ways for things I may be going to do and experience some time in the future. Reading also gives me pleasure in and of itself. Reading changes me and fuels me. There are, as we know,  a limitless amount of things for us to read and learn and the way we do this is changing rapidly. The case for books explores this well and particularly the impact of the digital age on publishing.  Did you know that google are currently digitizing every piece of written material?

So imagine I mention 'A purpose driven life' here on the blog which is the worlds best-selling book. You might want to read it there and then. Now, I usually link to Amazon but I could just as easily link to Rick Warren on google books and you could start reading it right now. In fact, you can start reading just about any book ever published. It's amazing when you consider you can do this for free. Why do I buy books again?

I know why. I buy books not just to read but also to handle and mark and feel and experience. The Kindle is currently right in our faces trying to convince us it is a 'Gift to readers'. This may be so and only time will tell. Currently few people I know read books and sadly even fewer Christians, who should really be reading more. Also, if 'Leaders are readers' we should also worry that only a few Christian leaders I meet read widely or much. They are often 'too busy' building their churches to have time to read and some of them admit to not even reading the bible often. We really are in a pickle when that happens and we can find ourselves in this place surprisingly easily.

If you want to know anything, if you want to have character, if you want to think differently, if you want to have something to say and you want to be slowly and gracefully transformed then read. But one caution-don't let your reading 'puff you up' as Paul warns the Corinthians.  Read journals, news, novels, theology, biography, politics, history; read, read, read and then read some more. Also, as C S Lewis said, make sure you read old books too. Oh and as I have said of course the bible is a given. Miss that and you really are snookered.

As I write this, I am reminded of Ruth Graham, Billy's wife, that I think I read in his biography or it might have been in a Resilient Life. So often people say it is not a good season for reading- work, kids, commitments. The truth is it never is. When Ruth Graham had young children she would open up books and place them all over her house so when she was holding the baby or doing the washing she would read the book she had placed on the window sill, kitchen shelf or at the top of the stairs. I love that image and her passion for reading.

Darnton states, 'Whatever the future may be it will be digital' so I had better get used to it but it is struggle for me. I feel rather like someone trying to be convinced that the microwave will revolutionise cooking (which they did at the time) and now all we do is heat up babies milk and baked beans in it. Having read a few books now on my Kindle app on my phone I am not yet convinced and it does smack me as a bit of a microwave. OK in a time of need but you can't live on it.

In my vocation you need to refer to things a lot and I am so in the habit of picking up something physical. When I see the page I read some time in the past with its marked and scribbled on pages or with a cross by the side of a quote I relive my read. I will probably buy a Kindle or Sony E-reader at some point and it does have benefits as Michael Hyatt demonstrates and my hope is that these devices will encourage people and children in particular to read more. I know Darton is probably right about the future but my concern is you can't survive on microwaved food nor I suspect can you do so on microwaved books. We'll just have to see how things go.

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