These books have lives that have changed mine. If it weren’t for the signature in that stolen copy of “Fahrenheit 451,” I wouldn’t have felt a personal responsibility for books and their authors, a conviction that led me to New York to study at the only university with a great books curriculum. If it weren’t for the gift of that galley of “The United States of Arugula,” I wouldn’t have developed the friendship with my boss, a food editor, and that was what made me realize that exploring the place of food in our lives was what I really wanted to do. And if it weren’t for the reproach represented by that “Directions” guide to Edinburgh, I probably wouldn’t have abandoned the promise of a publishing job in the city after graduation to take my new passion for food to a farm in California and start the adventure I never had in Scotland.
In eliminating a book’s physical existence, something crucial is lost forever. Trapped in a Kindle, the story remains but the book can no longer be scribbled in, hoarded, burned, given or received. We may be able to read it, but we can’t share it with others in the same way, and its ability to connect us to people, places and ideas is that much less powerful.