I once got into an argument with some very smart people about the nature of books in the emerging world. I argued that Books would become obsolete. The cost of the material goods, and the limitations that printed text brings would ultimately be the down fall of material books and digital files would emerge supreme for every day use. The only response was: “Yes but digital files don’t FEEL like a book, they don’t SMELL like a book” . Sure, this is true. But when you are in the marketplace looking for a book to read on the airplane, will you buy a $12.00 paperback, or a $2.00 digital download. Any preference for print would, at that point, be purely fetishistic.
I never really got the whole idea of the book as a fetish object, until very recently. I used to DM using only online resources made available to me through the wizards website and I was pretty content with it. I got access to every single monster, item, trap, you name it, ever made and it was all 100% paperless. Then, I found out that I was getting the 5e manuals in physical copy. At first I scoffed, but I ended up stopping by a chapters one day with time to kill and I skimmed cover to cover, the 4e monster manual. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t fall in love. To pour over the illustrations, to know where everything is in the book, it was all so…pleasant. I want the manuals now more than anything else. I now understand those stories you head of retro geeks like Patton Oswalt carrying around manuals like safety blankets. It all kind of, in a near inexplicable way, makes sense to me.
I fell so deeply in love that I, frugal as I am, made a rare indulgence and bought the 1e ad&d monster manual, to combine my new fetish, physical books, with my old one, the love of the terrible early art and creatures of D&D. I t hasn’t even arrived and I know it will be one of my prized possessions.