Have you ever become so familiar with a book that you can flip easily to your favorite passages? Maybe you can close your eyes, and imagine where things are on the page?

The advent of e-readers has been a tremendous blessing. Instead of weighing down your suitcase with your favorite books, you can pack your Kindle. The portability of your personal library is a modern marvel.

And the technology continues to advance–making the e-reading experience more and more bookish. Plus the bonus features of highlighting, note-taking, seeing other people’s favorite passages, pacing stats, etc.–all great.

However, there are a few downsides. For my wife–the smell of a book is important to her. Perhaps someday the e-readers will smell like old pages? For me, the loss of thickness–and the local memory that goes with it–keeps me tethered to traditional books. On a Kindle, seeing the lighted bar move and the percentage change just doesn’t give my memory the same sense of location. This is particularly important to books that I want to be deeply familiar with–my Bible, for instance.

No judgement here if you prefer your e-reader for your Bible. But I’ll stick with my paper copy for the following reasons:

  1. Local memory–familiarity of where things are front to back–even placement on a page.
  2. The feel–I like that my Bible feels special–very different than all my other books, since it’s my only leather book. I especially like the fact that my Bible doesn’t feel like my phone.
  3. Inheritance–my kids probably aren’t that interested in inheriting my phone when I die. I think they’ll be very keen to have my Bible(s) when I die–especially appreciating the notes and thoughts I’ve scrawled in the margins over the years. Not that profound–but written by their Daddy. My wife inherited one of her Grandmother’s Bibles, and it’s a cherished possession–not just for the fact that it smells awesome (old pages plus old leather). There’s something about Grandma Lehman’s cursive that makes us feel extra rooted.

Here’s a related anecdote about Martin Luther (one of the Protestant Reformers from five hundred years ago) that made me smile. He didn’t want a new copy of the Psalms (the song-part of the Bible, sometimes referred to as “The Psalter”) because he knew his way around his old copy:

Some one asked Luther for his psalter, which was old and ragged, promising to give him a new one in exchange; but the doctor refused, because he was used to his own old copy, adding: “A local memory is very useful, and I have weakened mine in translating the Bible.”

Martin Luther, THe Table Talk of Doctor Martin Luther, 24-25.
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