Books Spring Eternal


Old is new again. Again. The recent reappropriation of the past in American youth culture (see: steampunk fashion, the booming knitting industry, the comeback of the mix tape) might be indicative of a popular desire to return to simpler times. Or to work our hands instead of our cash. Or in the case of writer/illustrator Lane Smith’s new children’s book, It’s A Book, to remind us that reading books – as opposed to screens – is a worthy pursuit.

It’s A Book is a conversation between a book-reading monkey and a computer-wielding jackass (donkey, for you smirkers), wherein the techy jackass has difficulty grasping how a book works. “Can it Tweet?” asks the donkey. “Does it text? Does it need a password?” This is essentially the conversation I imagine today’s 20-somethings having with their future children.

“No,” replies the monkey each time. “It’s a book.” Simple. Clever.

I would argue this book has all of us in mind, children and uppercase children alike. And if like me you’re still not convinced you should spend your birthday money on a Kindle, a Nook or an iPad, this book’s concept will be the printed-page enabler of your dreams.

Ironically, you can get intimate with the book about books right now, via this animated web preview.


Compared to electronic versions, a book is simply less needy. A book won’t break. A book will never need a software update. Pay for a book once and keep it forever. Lend one to a friend. Give one to a person who can’t afford one. You can buy one without a credit card. You can buy one with boobs in it. Books have a distinct scent. They can make for decent kindling when lost in the Alps. They can steady café table legs without getting damaged. They can be returned if you hate them. They can be purchased second-hand at a discount. They’ll continue providing text weeks into a safari. Use one as a weapon when street fighting. Write a dedication in a book’s jacket before giving it to a lover. Read one in the tub without fear of electrocution. Feel good about a child eating near one.

And dare I say, a physical library or book store is terribly more engaging than its iTunes counterparts?

There absolutely are benefits to owning an eReader. But for today let’s celebrate the book. Call it a case of nostalgia, or curmudgeonocity, or blinding love, but I dig the jive Smith is talking. And if that means my future is one with bookshelves overflowing and sea spray sticking my pages together, that works for me. I’ve been meaning to buy a new knitting book anyway.

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Illustration courtesy of Lane Smith