I opened a fortune cookie one morning, having forgotten it the night before, and read that “You will be surrounded by things of luxury.” I couldn’t argue with this, I was going to be spending my day at a library surrounded by books. That got me thinking on how the status of books has changed, is changing. It wasn’t all that long ago, if you take a giant step back to see all of human history at once as a timeline, when books were a luxury only the most wealthy could own. Books like the Book of Kells were lovingly painted, and embellished with gold leaf.
Enter Gutenberg, and his press. From that point forward, literature has mushroomed. And like a patch of mushrooms, you could only really see part of it. The darlings of the media, in whatever form that was, got talked about. But there were many more unseen books that were unseen, proliferating via word of mouth. It has always been that way, ever since books became accessible to the masses.There were books that were frowned on as vulgar, that you wouldn’t admit to having read, and even at times, reading was not in vogue. Growing up, I was taught that a certain establishment frowned on the peasants being taught how to read, as it would dilute their hold on the ‘truth.’ I don’t know if it’s fact, but it certainly rings true. The luxury of being able to read and form one’s own opinion is open to each one of us.
We live in an era of information, I am told over and over. This is true – there is more of it, and mere freely available, than ever before. But how do we know what to believe? It’s like being drowned in gold coins. And each one needs to be bitten to see if it is real gold, or lead. Which brings me to the concept of gatekeepers. We have been told, stridently and often, that indie published books must be crap because there are no gatekeepers. What the detractors don’t seem to get is that we are intelligent, educated, rational humans, and we can do our own gatekeeping, thankyouverymuch.
The gatekeepers have become corrupted. Drunk on power, they push their own biases, forgetting that they were supposed to sell to the masses, not the elitists who agree with them. But now, with the rise of independence, we have the luxury of becoming our own gatekeeper. It doesn’t take long for me to look at a book blurb, maybe the reviews, flip through a few pages, and know that I am interested in buying, or not. No longer online than it would take, standing in a bookstore. We are surrounded by the vast array of offerings, looking at what we want to, when we want it. It can make you a bit giddy at times. I know I indulge in book shopping far more often when presented with this option.
There was a time in my life I lived in dire poverty. I couldn’t get more books, for various reasons. Access to a library was limited, my personal library had been pruned down to a bare branch by many moves, and I was growing desperate. Enter the internet, and ebooks. Especially the Baen Free Library, although I had other favorite sites like manybooks and Project Gutenberg. It was like unlocking the vaults and allowing a starving man to take all he could carry. Now, I have the ability to find exactly what I want to read, no matter where I am, or what time it is, or what state of dress I am sporting. Leave my finances out of it, I am a rich woman.
I may not be able to allow visitors to gaze upon my magnificent collection and impress them with having all the right titles, since most of my reading is electronic, and besides, I own a varied library at best. I love ebooks, but I will admit that they don’t get the same reaction as an 1895 copy of Kipling, which was picked up reverently when I had it out in public, raised to an inch of her face, and sniffed thoroughly with a look of bliss and a comment of “I love the smell of old books!” I love to share my favorites, and have been known to write notes in Literature class, and push them to a classmate with a ‘psst! check this book out!’ knowing that I am contributing to the downfall of a youth into the decadence of reading. I review new favorites, especially those by Indie authors, on my blog for the public to discover. We live in the lap of luxury and it’s lined with a pile of books.
And because I know you will all enjoy this: 30 best places to be if you love books!