Is there anything better than opening up a new book, ruffling through the pages and the scent that wafts off of it — ink, paper and glue? Maybe an older book does — one that has taken on the scents of former owners, has that light dusty/musty smell, but just seems to have more “weight” because of the scent that floats off the pages.
I adore my book collection. I am not sure how many I had at my most — probably around 300. My dream has always been to have a house that has a library of its own. My favorite scene as a kid in any movie was the part where the Beast gives Belle his library. So many books that there were ladders and stairs to reach them all! What could be more romantic than a gift like that? Well, nothing, really.
I also have a technology obsession. I love how electronics work. I love the way that facebook has allowed me to connect with people I knew half my life ago — and to again befriend them over many miles and countries. So you would think I would automatically love e-readers (I don’t like how it is traditionally written without the hyphen. . . it looks weird!) That isn’t exactly true. I was fascinated when I first heard of them in high school. Apparently Hearst first worked on the idea in the 1970s (or at least that is what I was told 10 years ago in high school.) But the more I thought of the loss of the pages and beautiful covers and the SMELL of books, the more I mourned the thought.
How could a prince one day give me a library if we switched over to e-readers? A computer file? How unromantic! Haha. But recently I’ve been re-evaluating my thoughts. I was looking through my own little library and rearranging, packing some in boxes to send to my mom and sister. I realized that some of the books I was holding so tightly to, I didn’t even like. Some of them I liked, but never intended to ruffle through again. They were decoration. They told people who visited: “I really am a reader. See, I have all these books.” In part they were a thing of pride for me. A decorating tool to speak about what I liked. But I began to think it would say much more about me if the books were ones that I truly loved.
I also began to think about what it really is that I love about reading. Is it the physical experience of the feel and smell and look of a book? Or was it what I was reading? Ultimately I realized that the story is the most important part, that even without the physical look of a book, I still get caught up in the story. I will still cry at the sad (and probably at the happy) parts. I will still giggle when the author makes a geeky linguistic joke. And I will still sigh in envy when the writing is so great that I couldn’t hope to ever match it.
So I succumbed to the idea of an e-reader. Someday I’ll buy a Kindle. Probably not in the next few months, but eventually. I picked it because it uses e-ink — which, unlike a computer screen — is not back lit and thus does not wear on the eyes like most electronic screens. I’ve also heard it has the most selection and that the refresh time is the best. If libraries near me had a larger e-book collection, I might reconsider the Nook, because the Kindle doesn’t allow you to “check out” books. But even though a computer engineer said it has the clunkiest back system imaginable, it seems like the readers really love it anyway. I also tend to take several books on vacation, filling up my suitcase. Imagine how lovely for it to fit into the pocket of my laptop case!
So that is how a book lover decided to get an e-reader — against her first judgment. And I’ll still maintain a library of my own, but a more pared down — one that is more representative of my very favorite stories.