If you haven’t realized by now that I’m a bibliophile then I feel like you do not know me at all and you haven’t read the majority of my favorite posts. So maybe you should get on that before we go any further. Done? Good. Let’s move on. I love reading. If I were ever deserted on an island, I would ask only that I have a great book and that it not be too difficult to survive on the island so I could spend my time reading said book.
I have a dirty little secret though. I haven’t picked up an actual book in over six years. SIX YEARS!
I know, Sherlock, I know.
In uncharacteristic form, I was one of the first people to buy a Nook when it was released in February 2009. I awaited that little tablet more eagerly than I did the arrival of my niece. Luckily, the Nook arrived first and I didn’t have to make a decision about staying home waiting for FedEx or going to see her in the hospital. I kid, I kid. Why did I get the Nook? Mainly because I’m such an avid reader, I was running out of room in my house for all of the books I bought over the years and donating them meant I wouldn’t have them anymore, which made me sad because sometimes you want to revisit a book. Having electronic copies of the books I’ve read would save space, save trees, and allow me to carry more books on airplanes. Win, win, win. So for six years, I’ve been buying books and reading them on my Nook and then my iPad when an unfortunate wrestling accident killed my Nook. (RIP February 2009 – October 2014)
I’ve been telling myself since we moved to Long Island that I would take the kids over to the local library, literally a half mile up the road, and sign up for a library card. My spending on books was out of control and I figured I’d take advantage of their e-library and continue on my happy e-reading way. Finally after eight months, a friend convinced me to meet up at the library for a play date. I got my library card and when we came home, I set up my iPad for the e-library and went to work, searching for all the books I wanted to read for free. But spoiler alert: the library e-book system either doesn’t have the book I want to read in electronic format or does have it and there’s a wait list twelve thousand people long.
On our return trip last week, I decided to take a walk into the fiction section and I found myself getting a warm and fuzzy feeling. It was like meeting someone I hadn’t seen in seen in years. I forgot the feeling of optimism I get when I surround myself with books.
It’s alluring…all the possibility that awaits in those pages; all the effort it took to produce the books that lined the shelves. It’s enough to make me feel a bit high.
I grabbed two books and took the kids up to the children’s section so they could
rot their brains play educational games on the library iPads while I sat down and read. I noticed a few things when I settled into a chair to start one of my choices. One: There is a presence to an actual book. There’s substance there; it’s a considerable weight in your hand. The size and shape is dependent on so many things but mostly how the author chose to tell his or her story. It also has a smell; oh, that lovely print smell! Two: there’s a physical act to reading an actual book. You have to turn the pages and there is the satisfying scratching sound that comes with every page turn. Your body finds a rhythm; you hold the book a certain way, your finger tucks behind the page on the right awaiting the next page turn; you flip it over open on your lap if you need to stop reading for a moment. Three: it’s a public display to read a book. There’s no hiding the title behind an iPad, when you’re reading a book you’re saying “This is what I decided to do with my time.” I am ashamed of some of the books I’ve read over the years *cough* Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey *cough* but there have been times that I’ve longed for a stranger to come up to me and comment on the book I was reading. It used to happen to me all the time. I’d read on the train to and from work or outside on my lunch break and occasionally someone would say “Oh! I loved that book!” or “How is that? It’s on my list.”
I’m excited to have rekindled my love of actual books and I’m sad it’s been as long as it has been since I held one in my hand. I’m writing my own novel and when I imagine the finished product, I don’t see it as an e-file. I picture it as a physical, tangible item with weight and mass. I imagine it to be something that would be flipped through, handled, and worn but also something that will need to be cared for if it’s to last.