I consider myself a technologically sound person. My DVD/VCR does not blink “12:00 AM” all day and night. I can find my way around a computer without studying manuals thicker than the Atlanta phone book. I can load tunes onto my mp3 player without screaming and throwing things around the room. I confess, though, that last thing is amazingly simple if you don’t have to fight with iTunes . . .

Recently, I have had several people tell me that it is time I bought myself some sort of e-reader. “You need a Kindle,” they tell me. “You need to buy a Nook!” I freely admit I like the notion of an e-reader. I like the idea that I could have some sort of device that has 3500 books stored on it, just waiting patiently for me to flip it on, tap a key or two, and start reading. I love the idea that you can get classic pieces of literature that are no longer in copyright for free. The notion of having a gadget in my hand, loaded with a library of Verne, Shakespeare, Poe, Wells, and the like, makes me smile to even dream about.

But there is one fatal flaw in the plan. I love books.

I love the way a book feels in my hands. I love the aroma of paper and ink that comes up from the pages when you open a book for the first time. I cannot imagine getting the same feeling from turning on a “Nintendo Book Boy” and settling into a comfortable chair for a few hours. The power and majesty of the printed word on paper is just a unique thing.

There are books I treasure. I read “To Kill a Mockingbird” at least four times a year. Every time I read the first line of the book, “When he was nearly thirteen my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow,”  I find myself smiling. Harper Lee starts her classic story with a statement that, on the surface, seems to be just that, a statement. The entire story, as we find out, leads to that one simple statement. From there to the last words of the book, “Atticus would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning…”, every line is like a lyric in a song about the South. The song is not always a pretty one, but it is a beautiful one.

I keep a paperback copy of “Mockingbird” tucked into a pocket of every travel bag I own. I have a fear of being stuck somewhere and having nothing to read. Call it my “security blanket,” but I feel better knowing that, for whatever reason, if I need a calming, quieting hour or two, I can dig out that book and lose myself in the story of Scout, Jem, Atticus, and Tom Robinson.

As I think about my love of books, so many things jump out in my mind. I am a voracious reader and a self-taught speed reader, but I came onto certain books in odd ways. I did not find Tolkien and “The Lord of the Rings” until college. A good friend of mine, David Broshar, started talking about the book during a conversation about Stephen King’s “The Stand.” I mentioned that “The Stand” fascinated me because King, in essence, creates a world, destroys it, and rebuilds it. David leaned back in his chair, pulled out his trusty can of Copenhagen, and said, “You should read ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ Tolkien created a universe, not just a world.” A professional bass fisherman could not have set a hook better.

I stumbled onto Pat Conroy in high school, because someone told me that there was a copy of “The Lords of Discipline” in the library but they were “not allowed to put it out on the shelf” because it was too “controversial.” Well, that settled that quickly enough. I had to read that book. I did not expect to be shocked by anything in the plot. Any book that some school system feels needs to be “banned” is usually better in style and substance than the ones they have no problem offering up on the shelves. What I did find, though, was an author that inspired me to learn how to write myself. The story he told was impressive, but his sentences, his fluidity and descriptive style, they took me to the streets of Charleston, South Carolina, to the frightening nights suffered by a plebe cadet at a Southern military institute, to the salt marshes of the Lowcountry. Again, I was hooked.

My love of movies took me to “Moby Dick” and “The Count of Monte Cristo.” I found Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ernest Hemingway because of Bogart movies. Lon Chaney, Sr. took me to Leroux and Hugo. I was pleasantly surprised to find how much the film version of “Gone With The Wind” had cut out of the book.

And, in every case, I found the pleasure of holding the book in my hand, feeling the slightly-yellowed pages in my fingers as I turned each one, diving deeper into the story. The aroma of aged paper and glue was like perfume, and, like any male, I followed the perfume until I found the beauty wearing it.

I just glanced over at the book I keep, and have kept, at my bedside for years now. It’s a leatherbound volume of the collected works of Jules Verne. I found it in an antique book store almost twenty years ago. Verne had been another fascination of mine since I had first seen the movie version of “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.” The idea that one man, through the power of the pen, had basically invented what is now known as “science fiction” grabbed me and it has never let go. One man’s mind had the forethought to predict such things as traveling to the moon in a rocket fired from Earth, an “atomic” submarine, diving equipment, underwater eco-farming, and countless other ideas that are now accepted as reality. His “The Mysterious Island” was one of the first books to create a microcosm of society and show it thriving through non-prejudicial teamwork. His work has inspired writers, scientists, filmmakers, and explorers for over a century. And this happened through books, not a hand-held video screen with a few buttons on it and a nice little carrying case. It happened through the ink touching the page, and the page being bound to another.

I write now because I like the feeling of creating worlds. I can put words into the mouths of characters I create, and have them say things I want them to say. I can tell stories the way I have always wanted to. And other people can read them, think about them, and maybe those words will, in some way, let someone else find the desire to do the same thing with their words.

I write because I love books. I love books because I write. But I also love books because they are permanent. They are testimony that other people create, and offer their creations to the world. They inspire, they calm, and they take the reader wherever they want to go. They let people dream. They let people escape. And they let people return to them time and time again, to relive those dreams, to find that same escape.

You cannot get the same experience, reading from the bits and bytes of the sterile cyber-library stored on some device or gadget. There is something magical about opening a book, hearing the binding pop quietly as it is first spread wide enough to hold. The weight of the story resting in the right hand, the left hand waiting to take on the load of the pages as the story unfolds. And, again, that perfume . . . that aroma of paper and ink wafts up from the pages, beckoning to the reader to stick around a while and enjoy what is in store. The sound of the page rustling as it is turned, and the gentle shift of the fingers as the reader tucks the last page away and starts on the next one.

When the book is finished, there is a satisfaction in closing that book, that gentle slam as the last page is finished and the cover is closed. And, if you’re like me, you take a moment to let the last words repeat in your mind, savoring them one last time before you put the book on the shelf, the bedside table, or the side table next to your chair. And you sigh and say a silent thank you to the author for allowing you to share in that story.

There is no device, no machine, that can capture that magic…