The end of books


Lets face it, books as we know them are dead. In everyday life a book is not only not practical but, in fact, extremely inconvenient. Books are single minded, covering only one topic and, if they don’t, tough to follow. Perhaps a cookbook might be useful if you wanted to learn about one particular style.  But typically, ones that cover many styles or a variety of continents, are usually pretty lame.

When you need information, you need it now – not later after thumbing through tons of pages filled with words that are often excess prose – and only getting to the final conclusion  in the last couple of paragraphs of the entire book. Unless, of course, there is some silly last chapter summarizing the whole story, which by the way you already know because you just spent the last weeks or months reading and couldn’t wait to put the book down after the big letdown. Or, in the case of a cookbook, you know the philosophy of the chef/cookbook author and you try a couple recipes to find that only one actually works with any success; usually roasted chicken.

Give me the internet, where someone else has summarized everything you need to know into a paragraph, or even one concise sentence; like that mangos are the most widely grow and eaten fruit in the world, or that bananas are the most widely grown and eaten fruit in the world. Stuff like that make research much easier – it doesn’t matter if it is true or not. Because the web is so reliable with information you can sculpt what you find into the conclusion you want. A much better world, given all that is bad.

On the other hand, books have potentially endless facts that have been researched over and over, in search of honest truth.

The coolest thing about online cookbooks is that there is none of the continuous verbiage about why one would cook a chicken this way or that. Or why you might use one kind of salt over the other! It just says salt.

On the other hand, that’s just it, isn’t it? A cookbook sits in your hand, like a tactile cushion from someone else’s kitchen. Like Thomas Keller  sharing his amazing art in the kitchen, or Molly Wizenburg who willingly shares the most intimate thoughts using her food as the narrative thread sewing her life together.

Why would you want to spend intimate time with a book? Sitting in the window, sitting by the fire, or at the beach?

Just last week, my daughter, who is an avid reader and, like so many her age, use computers, phones, electronic pads of all kinds,  has thoroughly used every type of book available, and she still prefers a hardcover book. “Because you can feel it,” she says.

When we went, a few weeks back, to a book-sale for used books. I expected a small crowd with the usual poking around. I knew we were in for something other than what we normally experience as we approached the warehouse; people were leaving with arms full of books, or actually arms wrapped around boxes overflowing with books, and very satisfied faces. We, too, left with a pile of books; my daughter with a myriad of  titles, I with just a few more cookbooks to add the 100’s I have already.

What it comes down to is, people that read like books in a jacket. A book is emotion wrapped in a cover, filled with pictures of thoughts, literal or not. Fancy electronic books have their place, and the books of the future are great media conversion tools, but still, to read and hold a cookbook is a irreplaceable thing.

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