I just got my most recent copy of Christian Century and opened it to find the interview with Warren Farha. Warren owns and operates Eighth Day Books in Wichita, Kansas. With waves of nostalgia wafting over me, I read the interview. Asked the question, “What do you think about the future of print?” Warren replied, “The book is a discrete object that changes your life. [ ] My first copy of Mere Christianity is 40 years old now. I can see the marked-up pages, the squiggly blue ink, the now falling-apart copy, and I remember the experience of reading that book. These books are bethels–stones of revelation. They are sacramental objects.”
I could not agree more! In fact, I feel his comments so strongly, I actually got a little choked up reading them. I had to resist the temptation to go to my bookshelf and pull down one of those marked-up, worked-over, falling-apart copies. It made me think of similar experiences I had with reading Lewis’ books and lots of others. It made me think of the books I inherited from my preacher father, with his handwritten marginal notes. It made me smell that familiar smell that theological libraries all seem to have.
Warren’s thoughts come not from mere nostalgia. He refers to the neurology of reading e-books: “It is missing the parts of your brain that access deep attention and long-term memory.” (I don’t know if Warren is right about this, but it makes me think of the physical act of writing, rather than keying thoughts into a computer. Students listen up! The physical act of writing notes in a class is more effective at memory and re-call that using your laptop!) There is simply nothing like holding an actual book in your hands, feeling the paper, arguing with the author, engaging the mind.
Thank you, Warren. May Eighth Day Books prosper and continue to bear fruit. (And maybe you could think about a branch in Dallas…)