These Books

These books have been around the block.

These books have done the hard yards.

They’ve had the stuffing knocked out of them

like a much loved teddy bear,

the sort of sorry, scruffy specimens grandparents bring

to ‘The Repair Shop’ ( UK ).

Is there an equivalent place for bruised, battered books?

What happens to them?

Is there a retirement home for old books?

A Hospice where sick books go to die?

Are we allowed to visit?

Is it over for paper books,

like it is for paper bills?

Is the future for books solely digital?

I for one like to hold books

like children teddy bears.

36 thoughts on “These Books

  1. Love the last 2 lines. I don’t think paper books will completely disappear. Maybe that’s more a hope than a real observation based on evidence. But honestly… I hate reading from a screen (for anything of more than a couple of pages) and I hate reading a book and not knowing where I am compared to the end of it. But it’s weird to think that I grew up with the World Book Encyclopedia and our kids don’t really know what an encyclopedia is. And will paper based dictionaries survive? Paper maps have become a somewhat specialised hobby. There genuinely seems to be a generation of people growing up not knowing how to use a paper map. It’s so bizarre to think that our thumbs might end up more dexterous than our minds. 🤭. Just kidding.

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    • You won’t believe this but when I was between jobs I went door to door selling World Book Encyclopaedias till a real job came along. Needless to say I have a full set including the children’s edition . I know about the paper maps. I used to use them all the time. I’m okay using Google Maps but still prefer — what was it? — the Fullers Street Directory 🙂

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      • My Mum sold WBEs door to door in Perth for a while too. I guess that’s why we had them all. :-D. They’re really good! DId your edition have the story of the Sooner Hound? When I was living in Melbourne, I came to Canberra to visit my now husband. I arrived into a strange city well after dark and in the interior light in my old Mazda had long since failed. I hadn’t thought to bring a torch and I didn’t have a mobile phone (although they were getting more common by then). Every time I got lost I would have to pull over, get out the Gregory’s (or whatever the Canberra equivalent is) and go and stand in front of the headlights so I could read the map. It was a terrible way to navigate. I think I ended up finding a public phone and ringing my now husband to get help. But what fun, right?! You don’t get stories like that with a Tom tom.

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      • I can’t recall the Sooner Hound, Worms; it was a long time ago and i gave them away when I shifted into a unit; but everything you want to know is online now so it doesn’t really matter — and they took up SO MUCH SPACE !

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  2. Some paper books need to retire like the rest of us, but there will always be more generations to replace them, as long as humanity survives. Too many of us love to hold the real thing for it to ever disappear.

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  3. I like to hold books too, but I’d rather read my Kindle any day or night. So convenient to have a whole library at your fingertips, and you don’t need a light, or reading glasses. Sorry, books – you are loved but relegated to wallflower status!

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  4. So beautifully written, John. It reminds me of The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Have you read it? It’s one of my all-time favourite books. Your poem captures a similar sentiment — that of the tangibility of paper books, their importance to a reader’s experience of a story, and what is lost when a physical book disappears.

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