The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words

The Last of the Book Generation

Maybe I’m wrong (and I hope that I am), but at 31-years-old, I feel as if my generation is the last one to truly appreciate walking through a used bookstore, breathing in the history of the pages, and fingering the first few pages to see if it’s one of the several that will wind up at the checkout counter that day.

I had two obsessions – well, three if you count girls – as a teenager: books, and CDs. A lot of my first dates were spent at Powell’s Books in Portland. I figured if a girl was as interested in books as I was, or if at least she was willing to truly look through the shelves, and grab a couple that sparked her interest, she was definitely worth a second date. The excitement I got from watching a girl finger through the first few pages of a used book was tantamount to hitting a walk-off grand slam, in game seven of a world series. Unfortunately, watching someone tap on the screen of an electronic device to choose a book, or read a few pages, is like watching that girl choose an electronic device over me.

I had an iPad for a while, and I tried my best to justify reading books on that instead of simply carrying around a paperback copy of something, but it just didn’t feel right. I want to keep the two separate. There is absolutely nothing like reading through a true page-turner; the feeling you get when you’re so entranced by a book, that you grip the corner of the page, and turn as quickly as possible as to not lose momentum in your reading. It’s not the same when you have to make sure that you swipe at the right angle, and then, what happens if your electronic reader runs out of juice, or crashes for some reason. At worst, you rip the page of a book, and throw some scotch tape on it to keep going.

I don’t see a lot of my students racing to bookstores, and that upsets me. They don’t get it because either they don’t read unless it’s done inside the classroom, or they just don’t care. The few who are voracious readers, now have electronic readers, and buy their books from an online application. It’s just not the same, and I’m hoping that I am not one of the last of the Book Generation.

About Christopher Margolin

Chris Margolin spent more than a decade in Education as a high school English teacher, and is now an Instructional Coach for the Longview School District. He is also the founder of The Poetry Question, an online journal which focuses on reviews of small press poetry publications, and runs a regular series called "The Power of Poetry," where notable poets share their personal stories of how poetry has affected their lives. Margolin resides in Vancouver, Washington with his wife, and daughter.

3 comments on “The Last of the Book Generation

  1. kiwiskan
    May 11, 2013

    That’s exactly how I feel – and I’m a generation ahead of you. I also bought a Kindle because we were told that’s the way of the future. Now it sits neglected on my shelf, and I’m back with my beloved books. Take heart – my grandchildren all read books.

    • Christopher Margolin
      May 11, 2013

      It’s wonderful to know that you, and your child, have taught the future generation how to pick up a book, rather than an ipad.

  2. Bastet
    May 11, 2013

    At 61, I’d heard it said often that the generation that followed mine just didn’t read…at least here in Italy…only to read a few years later, that that generation, when it came it’s turn to comment, said the same of the upcoming younger generation.
    My youngest son is 23 and loves to go to used book stores, book fairs and loves the library, he refuses to read an e-books for most of the same reasons you’ve stated above. My grandchildren are all avid readers…and prefer the paper editions of course. Sometimes I’ll read an e-book, usually when I’m travelling, it’s convienient, makes for less weight to carry around, but it’s not my chosen method of reading.
    I really don’t think you should worry about the printed book disappearing…it has it’s own magic and it’s easier to read too!

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This entry was posted on May 11, 2013 by in COMMENTARY and tagged , , , , , , , , , .

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