Bathtubs and libraries

Books are too fragile.

Even as books made from chopped trees tire our muscles, their vulnerability compels us always to shelter and protect them. A teaspoon of water will forever mar a book; reading in the bath, the kitchen, the coffeehouse is conducted only at the risk of ruining that perfect form of which we are so fond.

The fragility of books -- their vulnerability to fire, flood, or misfiling -- chains librarians to custodial duties and compels scholars to travel great distances to consult important collections or rare manuscripts.

If the care of books is to transcend janitorial gatekeeping, the books we love are deeply flawed.

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