Editors Note: T.S.has come down for a visit and I am trying to guilt her into actually writing something for this blog that she was all “yeah let’s do this.” As such, this weeks post is a bit shorter than usual, I crave your forgiveness for producing less content for the same amount of no money.
If there is a particular area of my sanctification in which I lack charity, it is in relations to book dealers. Book sellers, would probably be the correct term but with my insatiable appetite for books, dealers is the correct term. I get my book fix from my two local used emporiums when Amazon fails me and is media mailing to me. I dread the day Randy tells me he is cutting me off and I need to go home and be thankful for such books as I have.
But back to my lack of charity. I have yet to be wooed by the digital book. Logos Bible software made some initial progress with it’s ability to topically index an entire library. Then failed to have digitized any of the books or authors that I rely upon as primary sources. Lewis and Spurgeon may as well be the fourth and fifth members of The Trinity as far as I am concerned. Perhaps now they have been added but they lave long been residing on my shelves as close friends; and I am hesitant to pay exorbitant all over again for a digital license version which may be required of me one day. The Logos giveth and the Logos taketh away. Neither the Kindle nor the Nook ever held any charm to my eyes, and to the touch they hold all the comfort of a sheet of aluminum. Also I remain resistant to the charms of the audio book.
But I have not yet explained my lack of charity. I love physical volumes. I love everything about them. Ironically books are written on books, and naturally, I have many of them. I won’t run on too long about the rapturous experience I go though with a new (to me) book. The smell, texture, of both cover and pages, the weight in the hand. I love format and fonts. I love the names of all the book parts (frontispiece, fly leaf, colophon) and and the terms for how it ages (foxing, chipped, trimmed, dampstained). And of course binding is king. A paperback should be utilitarian exactly the good friend you the along for pints. But it is fragile, I abhor creases on the spine. I tend to delicately crack them open and leave them at home. A sturdy hardcover is my constant companion. Heavier, yes but they travel with me. With a dust jacket removed and preserved on a corner of my desk with his fellows, whose fillings are also out and about; a sturdy hardcover is the workhorse. They can suffer some minor bumps and still remain presentable when redressed in their slips upon completion. The Cloth Over Board, however, is a work of art. *Fortunately for me publishers have rediscovered this presentation, and O glory! These are books to be savored. Not only do they satisfy the tactile, they delight the eyes. Usually bound with heavy creamy paper and printed in Serif fonts, these are books that were written and designed with love. And they adorn my shelves bringing glory to the shelf and to the possessor.
We may now turn to my lack of charity. It should, by now, be apparent that not only the books themselves, but their condition matter greatly to me. I must confess to have written more than one, a great many in fact, emails to online booksellers filled with venom at having received a book in a thin plastic baggy that is torn and the book so bad damaged I felt the book should be buried with full honors for it’s valiant effort to make it across the postal lines to me. I fills me with rage to have a book sold to me by a vendor that has no idea how to rate the condition of a volume. There are actual guidelines for this, google it! By far my most frequently asked question, and coincidentally first line, in many of these emails of rage and despair is, “Why are you selling books if you so clearly hate them?!” I keep a list of online bookstores that have burned me in one way or another which I have entitled: NEVER BUY FROM.
As an aside: Recently I have been stymied in my pursuit of the beautiful. And here I hope to rouse a call to action. Would that publishers make searchable on their websites the binding of books. Granted this is something of a nit to pick. Most search for content. But sometimes a man just wants to purchase a damn good looking volume and find out what is inside later.
I am not yet charitable. As I said I must grow in my sanctification, but I do rather hope I am not the only one with this struggle. I must confess to a concerted effort to convert others to my high standards of aesthetics. Traveling across land and sea to make one proselyte. For good or ill though I have yet to make anyone twice the son of hell I am. This is probably a good thing but I long for market forces to satisfy my desire for the beautiful, cloth over board, gilded, bound with hand stitching…
I have begun to wonder though if the frustration that I am met with in does not somehow make the pleasures sweeter. For every poor abused book that arrives near death, crammed in a tattered green sleeve of plastic, boasting of it’s eco friendliness, in my mailbox; there is a box of Banner books, each individually wrapped in brown paper, nestled in a box of layered packing materials, everything ship shape right down to the pattern of the logo on the packing tape. Would I notice the care that went into shipping these beauties to me if there were not the rage inducing monsters or ignoramus who slap dash list and ship? I might but probably not as much. Perhaps this is a small glimpse of God using what one meant for evil and turning it to good. Either way, prayers are appreciated, I need to grow in charity.
* I would point out that secular publishers have been putting out cloth bound works of good or notable literature, The Folio Society and Overlook Press immediately jump to mind. But sadly Theology books were, until recently, seen as a utilitarian and necessary endeavor and languished in the doldrums of the paperback or hardcover if the book were of sufficient size. The exception to this rule was the magnificent Banner of Truth. For some time now Crossway has been hot on their heals with particularly gorgeous editions. I wish Eerdmans would jump back on the bandwagon, My old set of Barclay’s New Testament Commentary is a true delight (minus the denial of Jesus’ miracles).