Remembering the (almost) forgotten days of the book

Discussion in 'H.I. Cantina' started by Howard Wallace, Jun 11, 2011.

  1. Howard Wallace

    Howard Wallace . Moderator

    Feb 23, 1999
    Between the internet and my e-book reader, long periods of time can go by without me cracking open a book for pleasure.

    The other day while perusing a second-hand establishment set up in an old barn, I came across an old leather-bound 20 volume set of biographies. Published in 1904 by the University Society, it was titled “The Makers of American History.” The asking price was the princely sum of $18. I thought long and hard about getting them. Physical books take much more space, and care, than virtual volumes. Not too long ago I sent hundreds of pounds of books to the second-hand stores in order to squeeze into my new library. Also, who knows if they’re any good or not? It could be 20 heavy volumes of unreadable junk.

    I ended up getting them, and solving the quality evaluation problem by taking them over to my ma’s place, and asking her to take a look at them for me. She’s retired, and always has time to spare for a few books.

    Returning a few days later, I found out what she thought of them. She had chosen the volume on Jefferson to start with. She loudly opined “He’s a damn anti-federalist.”

    “Who,” I asked, “Jefferson or the biographer.”

    “Both of them. Never could figure out why the Democrats think Jefferson is such a hero. Always ranting about states’ rights. He really wanted to hobble the Federal Government.”

    She went on ranting for several minutes, while I thanked her and picked up the box of books. As I left I saw a gleam in her eye, and the slightest upturn of a smile. I have a suspicion she knows she torpedoed my planned fishing weekend.

    Sitting on the couch, the softness of old leather against my hand. The author, a professor from Yale, writes in a quaint old dialect. (English, I’m told it is.) The book even has a smell that computers and e-book readers can’t duplicate. Every once in a while I pause in my reading and let my eyes gaze out the window at the shipping traffic in the inlet.
  2. Quiggifur


    Jun 15, 2009
    Just give it time.

    I hate to admit it, but the internet and digital media are simply better at disseminating information than books could ever be. I am lucky in that I still have a reason to enjoy the smell of a book every now and again, since information pertaining to some of my interests isn't widely available digitally. Some of my best memories are of reading books (I know it's sad, but I was sheltered as a child), but I doubt I'd be doing nearly as much reading lately if not for the internet... I just don't have the space or the money to support the habit, and we don't have much of a library around these parts.

    That's something else I don't see sticking around for much longer, the library. I think even years ago when I last had a library card, my local library was having trouble. I don't even want to think about what they're facing now.
  3. tedwca


    Dec 10, 2005
    It finally happened for me the other day. I was reading an actual book and I put it down to read the same book on my iPad. It was just more convenient for me to read it electronically. It was a sad day, but I won't miss physical books the next time I move. :)
  4. Steely_Gunz

    Steely_Gunz Got the Khukuri fevah Moderator

    May 9, 2002
    I haven't made the leap into digital reading simply because I might only get to enjoy 5 or 6 books a year. I read cheap, so covering the cost of an e-reader would take a lot of books/time to pay for the convenience. That said, part of the reason I don't read more has to do with the fact that buying books is slightly inconvenient. Borders went out of business in my neck of the woods, and it was the closest place to browse. Amazon is nice, but sometimes I just want to look through a collection of spines and see what strikes me. Being able to download a book in a minute does sound nice though. I might be more apt to read if it were near instant gratification.

    I love going to old book stores simply for the smell. How many tomes will soon be forgotten simply because they were not profitable to upload?
  5. tedwca


    Dec 10, 2005

    Getting the book instantly and not paying shipping is what put me over the top. There are 1000's of free books out there from multiple sources. Almost anything that has expired copyright is available for free.
  6. Quiggifur


    Jun 15, 2009
    It might be better to say that anything with an expired copyright is potentially available for free. Someone needs to take the time to transcribe the work first, and I think (as Steely said) a lot of works may be lost if no one will take the time to convert them to digital format (still a time consuming process, if I'm not mistaken). Even with text recognition (which may not be a viable solution in every case), someone would still have to proof-read to insure the copy is accurate.

    That might, however, be a good excuse to read some books, for anyone that's a proficient typist. Here might be a good place to start:
  7. Dago Red

    Dago Red Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 16, 2008
    I enjoy reading digitally too, for the reason cited that it is easier to get access, faster, and if i don't like it I don't have a book sitting around that I don't want to read. overall I much prefer physical books and am always buying more. I'm not a prolific reader just because i don't read very fast and don't have a lot of time. When I am able to I prefer the feel of the paper, the weight of the book, being able to see all the spines and yank one out as the mood strikes.

    i think though that I might end up getting a fancy reader thing, or an ipad (so i can play angry birds too) it just suits my reading style. I have a back problem and so when not at work or doing something i spend a lot of time flat, which is always a problem when reading because of lighting and my arms getting tired after a while. it makes me sad just thinking about it. I have always loved having shelves of books, but am now thinking about what it would be like to not have so much space taken by them. For probably 20 years I've dreamed of having a house with a dedicated library. maybe I'll have to change that to faux bookshelf walls, a nice fake fireplace, and a kindle.

  8. C.S. Graves

    C.S. Graves

    Jun 13, 2006
    The space issue is about the only disadvantage to ol' fashioned books for me. Well, and I suppose physical wear might be an issue for frequently perused, aged volumes. Okay, so there might be more drawbacks than I initially stated... still, I think there will always be a place for actual books in my home, even if I'm not exactly a voracious reader.

    Ahh, good ol' Project Gutenberg! If (when?) I make the leap to an e-reader, you can bet I'll be heading over there to scour their archives!

    As an aside, PG has an equivalent on the audio books front, called
  9. Esav Benyamin

    Esav Benyamin MidniteSuperMod

    Apr 6, 2000
  10. Piso Mojado

    Piso Mojado Basic Member Basic Member

    Jan 11, 2006
    Anyone who has tried to repair an old leather-bound book will instantly understand where Indy is coming from. As an ex-apprentice bookbinder, I can tell you that leather and paper were not a match made in heaven. The acrylic-coated buckram used in modern library binding is one of the unsung great inventions of the 20th century.

    Our descendants will lose things of great value with the demise of the paper book, but not every legacy is worth handing down, and I won't be sorry to see the giant reference books crumble into dust. Look up something in the 11th edition Encyclopaedia Britannica (other places too) and you will see what I mean.
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2011
  11. OldPhysics


    Sep 2, 2006
    I envy you.

    I admit I've moved into the modern era of 'virtual books,' but only reluctantly. I still love the feel of a fine leather binding in my hand.
  12. Howard Wallace

    Howard Wallace . Moderator

    Feb 23, 1999
    I guess I'm a bit behind the times. I have the 9th edition, often called the scholar's edition. I like the huge half-leather-bound volumes, with their marbled endpapers. They've given me quite a few hours of pleasant diversion. True, they have aged a bit since the late 1800's, but they are still old friends. They are a bit hefty though, and take up two full shelves on the bookshelves Red Flower and I just built.
  13. redvenom


    Aug 15, 2000
    I was seduced by the dark side and bought a kindle. Having used it for a while I find that I still prefer the quaint pleasures of turning over paper pages in old-fashioned books, at least for now. The only place I prefer my kindle is when I am taking a dump - easier to carry the kindle than an armful of novels.
  14. Steely_Gunz

    Steely_Gunz Got the Khukuri fevah Moderator

    May 9, 2002
    As fate would have it, my work phone crapped out on me today. I was due for an upgrade so I opted to trade in my Blackberry Storm for a Droid...somethingerother. In addition to being faster and more whiz bang, the Droid has a much larger screen meaning that downloading the Kindle app was too tempting to pass up.

    I'm reading a cheap zombie novel on it right now. Certainly not as enjoyable as turning pages. I mean, half the fun is looking down at a 500 page book and realizing that you were so engrossed in the story that you have nearly finished it in a day's time. That said, I'm going on vacation next month with my wife, daughter, and mother in law. Having access to a good book at the drop of a hat might come in handy during the drive.
  15. Piso Mojado

    Piso Mojado Basic Member Basic Member

    Jan 11, 2006
    Thirty years ago, someone gave me a 9th edition Brtannica. Every volume was mildewed and all you can do at that point is burn 'em or bury 'em, but I wanted to examine it at leisure before it went into the dumpster. It was the most robust set of books I ever handled, a unique combination of humanist learning and weight training.

    The old Brtannica's stroke of genius was recruiting specialist experts to write its articles. Intellectual specialization was a new idea in the 18th century. The 9th edition's 24 volumes + index volume were published between 1875 and 1889 at a subscription price of one guinea per volume, which is about $3 thousand in our money. It was a monument to Victorian scholarship of British origin — old EB wasn't interested in bloody foreigners and their crackpot ideas.

    Scholar's edition? It should be called the last edition. The original Britannica succumbed to the 19th century and the cheap, mass-produced book: American pirated editions were the last nails in its coffin. Of course the name lives on today, and much of its content was recycled until 1939.

    EB was acquired by American vulture capitalists along with the bankrupt London Times. The resulting 10th edition reprinted the original 24 volumes plus an 11 volume supplement to bring it up to date: in other words it was a cheap edition, and the first mass market mail-order edition in publishing history. It was advertised as a new edition, and customers got really pissed off when they found it had articles written before the Civil War. I have read some of their letters. Of course they were Chesterfields compared to the folks I dealt with at Britannica in 1977. I received a letter from Leon Uris, who really should have known better: he returned an invoice for the Book of the Year decorated by a huge rubber stamp that printed BULLSHIT in letters six inches high. Of course it was bullshit, but I digress . . .

    After that fiasco, the new owners had to do the thing right or quit the business and their investment. For the 11th edition, new articles were solicited from scholars all over the world, not just from the British Isles. The 9th edition's articles were retained whenever possible, but edited and rewritten by the non-tenured faculty of Cambridge University and the staff writers of The Times. Most of us think it was the best Britannica ever. But it is not the nicest set of books to own.

    Next to the Brobdingnagian 9th edition, the 11th edition is svelte and petite. Printed in 9 point type on India paper to be carried to the farthest reaches of the Empire, it is quite readable in good light (you need a magnifier for the maps). Its flexible leather covers were its undoing. They were the miserable cheap fake Morocco (probably sheepskin) that is hated by bookbinders everywhere. After fifty years they disintegrate, releasing chemicals that take the paper with them. When I was a lad in school, you could buy an 11th edition for $50 or at most for $75. Most of them were in bad shape then. Nowadays if you see one at all, it is in a university library's dehumidified special collection: they are very very brittle, and most of them smell very very bad. I'm not sad to see these relics digitalized. Into the fire with them!
  16. SilverFoxKnows


    Sep 25, 2002
    While I love being able to do research via a computer I still enjoy sitting with a good paperback. I buy books from used book stores, trade books with friends and co-workers. I've received a couple that were picked up at a garage sale for 50 cents or a buck. I have been trying to whittle down my library but I don't think I'll ever stop loving the paperback novel.

  17. Yvsa


    May 18, 1999
    Me too Frank, me too!!!:thumbup: :D :cool:

    However with that said I have to say that there's one set of old, 1947 Vintage Children Story Book's, I believe it was that was an addition to an off-brand, or at least not well known, I believe, set of Encyclopedia that was sold by the used to be old door to door salesman... that I dearly wish I had kept instead of giving it away to one of my kids for their kids.
    Helluvit is when I questioned them about it long ago neither one of them could remember them.:(
    I'm pretty sure I've mentioned them here before. They were covered in what appeared to be a red leather but at their price even back then I don't believe they could've been... When I first learned to read I started out with the very first book even though mom had to help me with lots of the long words she never seemed to tire of it...:D
    I've often said, even here probably that if I could find a well kept complete set of them, preferably with the little wood book shelf made especially for them I'd snap them up instantly providing their price wasn't exhorbent...(sp?) :thumbup: :cool: :D
  18. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    Yvsa, was it "The Bookshelf for Boys and Girls"?

    "...The books were produced by the University Society and I believe were available as a supplement to an encyclopedia package. Each set of box included a Parents Guide for helping children with the books. The series has been updated times after it's original printing in 1912-1915... In 1920 the covers were changed to green and the books were reduced from 17 to 10. In 1948 the covers were switched to a brick-red... 10 Volume Set Titles - Red (1948-1955) Series: 1)Nursery Favorites 2)Happy Hours in Storyland 3)Folklore and Fairy Tales 4)Pictures Stores and Music 5)Things to Make and Do 6)Famous Stories and Verse 7)Nature Recreation and Physical Development 8)Stores from Other Lands 9)Boys and Girls Who Became Famous 10)The Manual of Child development"
    quoted from

    Last edited: Jun 20, 2011
  19. Cpl Punishment

    Cpl Punishment

    Jan 28, 2006
    I don't know, guys. I really prefer a good old fashioned book. I'm one of those weird guys, I guess. Even if I look something up online, I'll print it out, and I often look things up online to find sources to order. I think it has to do with the fact that I like to own tangible property.

    I also like to multitask. Oh yes, I know: "But it's easier to multitask flipping through several windows at different sources!!"

    Well, no, not for me. I like to have my computer in the center of my desk area with my word processor up (I call it my thought processor), and several book arrayed around me, I can simply look from one to the other, and I can use the index as fast as a search function.

    For some things, like encyclopedic volumes, are best online since the data can change often. But I like to read history books, mythology books, etc, which shouldn't change (though you'd be SHOCKED to read a 1903 history book and a 2003 history book on say, Civil War era America -- you'll read a very different story).
  20. Noah.J.Revoy


    Nov 7, 2010
    Books? Humph! I still prefer hand written scrolls in Latin.

    Sincerely, that is a great book find. I still love a good book, especially ones written before the start of political correctness.

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