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Life is unimaginable without books. The worlds created by Dickens, Bronte, Austen, Steinbeck, Irving, and a host of other writers enrich my life.
Emily Dickinson expresses her reverence for books as “a bequest of wings.” In another poem, the book is a “Frigate” and “the Chariot / That bears the Human Soul!”
Dickinson regards a book’s words as precious, capable of loosening the human spirit and granting liberty of mind. Opening a book is freeing a genie from captivity. The loosened spirit is free to soar. Life is bigger, horizons are broader, possibilities endless, and liberty unlimited.
Like Dickinson, my favorite books are “kinsmen on the shelf.” The wall above my desk is lined with shelves holding the books I’ve acquired over a lifetime of reading. Looking at my bookshelf is like looking at a family photograph. Each book is a collection of memories. I recall when I bought the book, why I bought it, and where I was when I read it. If the book was a gift, I recall who gave it to me. Each book transports me back to the experience of reading. I am free to reconsider its content and meaning. I am inspired to build on what I learned. And, I am free to take the journey at any time.
How would Dickinson regard the effect of modern technology on the book? What would she say of ebooks and Kindle? While I love the feel a book in my hands, I am no Luddite. My Kindle is handy.
But, Kindle does not provide all the benefits of a printed book nor does it provide all the benefits of modern technology. For example, most Kindle books lack an index linked to the book’s content and, unlike electronic books owned by some libraries, it lacks the option of full-text searching.
Emily Dickinson might say it comes down to a question of access. A book, whether printed or electronic, is “a bequest of wings.”