The readers are slim, sexy packages–small and portable with crisp, clear screens. Most titles can be purchased online and ready to be read in a matter of minutes, so you don’t have to leave your house. It’s a lot easier to hide what you’re reading, avoiding potentially awkward conversations with parents or other family.
But this weekend, I was reminded yet again of why I’ll never be able to give up physical books.
On a lazy Saturday, ripe for exploration, I walked down a small alley I’d never seen before, and discovered that joy of all joys–a quaint little bookstore. It was small, but it was packed with a wondrous collection of children’s books.
There were picture books of all sorts, those I’d grown up with and those my cousin’s children are now growing up with. There were the Enid Blytons I remembered from my childhood, in an edition that was fully illustrated and coloured. There were all the classics, like Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, in hardcover collectors’ editions.
The one I picked up (for my sister, therefore a justifiable expense) was a collection of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales. It was a hardcover book, bound in royal purple leather and embossed with gold. The edges of the paper were also covered in a thin sheen of gold. It was beautiful. And it was also a collection of stories I could have gotten for free on my e-book reader.
But the weight in my hand, the smell of the pages, the indented flourishes on the cover, the coloured illustrations interspersed with the stories, and even the beautiful lettering in the headers–they are all things an e-book can’t replicate. It’s a completely different pleasure to be able to have a book to hold and hug, to stroke its spine, to admire on the shelf, like this book was begging me to do.
It made me remember all the other things I love about physical books. There’s the smooth texture of the paper as you turn each page (or rough, depending on the book), and the crackle of paper as you finger the pages. When you place a bookmark, you can see just how far through you are at a glance. Searching for a particular quote or passage is a brief journey through the story as you thumb through the pages, knowing that it comes before or after certain events in a particular section of the book. It’s enough to make a girl fall in love all over again.
So I’m sorry for abandoning you, my dear books. I’m back, and I don’t plan to stray again.
Well, except for holidays. And perhaps bath times.