Sunday, June 07, 2009

Books and Travel

The Library Book by Maureen SawaYou never know what you'll run across when following random links on the Internet. While reading some old blog posts, I ran across an amazing fact which I've since confirmed by a Google search.

Such was his love of learning that the scholarly grand vizier Abdul Kassem Ismael (935-995) of Persia never left home without his personal library. On his many travels as a statesman and warrior, Ismael traveled with 400 camels who carried his 117,000 volume library wherever he went. Even so, his personal librarians could locate any book almost immediately, because the animals were trained to walk in alphabetical order.

It appears that this is a true fact since it has been quoted in Isaac Asimov's Book of Facts, A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel, and The Library Book: The Story of Libraries from Camels to Computers a book for young readers by Maureen Sawa.

I wouldn't attempt to carry my entire library with me, but I never take a trip without carrying several books along. In fact, I have a small box about 10x15 inches—with books in it arranged spine up so I can see the titles—which goes into the trunk of the car when hubby and I leave the house on one of our cross-country driving trips. Right now, the box has 14 books from various genres so that I have some variety to choose from. But, the box is impractical for a trip that doesn't involve taking the car.

Enter the Kindle and Sony PRS-505 readers. Each one of these is loaded up with over 100 titles—a mixture of contemporary novels and classics. Talk about options! With a couple of SD cards, it would be possible for me to carry 117,000 titles with me just like grand vizier Abdul Kassem Ismael. It might be more difficult for me to locate a specific title because neither the Kindle nor Sony offer robust organization or "folders" for the books. If I had a laptop or netbook with me as well as the readers, then I could easily locate the book I wanted to read and push it to one of the readers. Not as good as traveling with personal librarians and camels trained to walk in alphabetical order, but I guess it beats having to feed the lot of them.

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