Cowan was settled in 1852 as a station for the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, but has been economically depressed since the railroad’s passenger service ended in 1972. Local points of interest include the Railroad Museum, which is located in the original town depot and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and nearby Cumberland Mountain tunnel. This 2,200-foot-long railroad tunnel, which is still in use today, took three hundred men working with picks and shovels three years to complete and was the longest tunnel in the world at the time of its completion in 1851.
— to this anecdote about Huckleberry Finn —
At the same booth was a beautiful first edition of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. Slicker pointed out that the original page 283 had been replaced in this copy, which is one of the identifying points designating a first edition. In 1885, during the original U.S. printing of 30,000 copies, an unidentified engraver took some high-spirited liberties with the illustration of Silas Phelps that appears on that page. Liberties involving the fly of his trousers. Once the infraction was discovered, new copies of the corrected page were made and substituted into the already printed but not yet released copies. (It was too late to recall the salesman samples of the novel, but sales agents were directed to tear the offending page out of their copies and return it to the publisher or suffer termination.)
I've been thinking of the rise of ebooks much like the rise of digital music, but maybe that's not the only metaphor that works. What if books are like wine? Sure, you can get a passable wine for under $20, just like you can get a perfectly fine ebook to read for under $10. But there's something appealing to a certain segment in showing off your wine collection, in opening a particular bottle from a certain region, of a specific vintage.
Is it so hard to imagine a connoisseur of fine books cracking open a new book and recognizing whether it's been printed off-set or digitally, just by smell? Is it so hard to imagine that the experience of reading a physical object will become something of an acquired taste, a sign of a refined pallet?
It's a little weird, but it doesn't seem that far out.