Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt
I wouldn’t say I have a book problem. It’s more like I have a time problem. You see, the pile of books on my bedside table keeps growing. The stack features stories and accounts I’m looking forward to reading, but I just can’t find the time. But this isn’t the entire story.
You see, I own this handheld digital rectangle called an Amazon Kindle. This rectangle holds hundreds of books on a simple black-and-white screen. While reading it, I can press my finger on a word I don’t understand and the rectangle will define the word for me. It’s fantastic.
Again, I see this less as a “book” problem and more of a “time” problem. Too many books, not enough time. There’s a term for people like me: bibliobibuli. Coined by author H.L. Mencken in 1956, bibliobibuli means “the type of people who read too much.”
In “Minority Report,” a compilation of Mencken’s notebooks published after he had a stroke, the author writes, “There are people who read too much: bibliobibuli. I know some who are constantly drunk on books, as other men are drunk on whiskey or religion. They wander through this most diverting and stimulating of worlds in a haze, seeing nothing and hearing nothing.”
While I’m also fond of whiskey and religion, books have a special place for me. As a bibliophile (a person who either collects or has a great love for books), I go back and forth in a struggle between physical and digital books. I love how physical books have a place on the shelf. The pulpy paper of their pages reveals intentionally laid out letters forming shapely paragraphs.
On the other hand, digital books have a backlit screen, which allows me to read without the aid of my bedside lamp. As I’m fond of reading late into the night, I find it more conscientious to have my lamp off so my wife can fall asleep more easily. And then there’s always a question of ownership: do I actually own a digital book? I’m not sure.
So now you understand my dilemma. In many ways, I find it more convenient to read digital books on my Kindle. At the same time, I love a physical book. Give me a good dust jacket on a first edition and you’ll find one happy word nerd. I hope I never find a cure for my need to read.
Curtis Honeycutt is a syndicated humor columnist. He is the author of Good Grammar is the Life of the Party: Tips for a Wildly Successful Life. Find more at curtishoneycutt.com.