I look at books differently now that I have one of my own in the world. They have always been mighty things in my life with a magic all of their own. When you’re sufficiently immersed in them, they feel very much alive. I like that feeling. A lot.
When I got my kindle a few years ago I was so excited to be able to get books as they came out because not all of them would make it to South Africa and if they did, it would be a little while before they arrived.
At first, I was excited about the idea that reading was going to become all about the words… The mere format was going to help me weed out good sentences from bad ones because there was no pretty cover or chapter titles to distract me… And then I realized that I missed all that.
I missed those special books with the weathered pages, the spines that some think are sacrilegious to crack, the inventive chapter titles and the illustrations, the hard covers and the dust jackets. I missed the weight and smell of a book. There is something infinitely romantic about curling up in a good chair with some tea and a paper book. An eBook just doesn’t come close.
And now that my book is out I realise that I wouldn’t have nearly the same excitement if it had only come out in digital format. Holding that book in my hands, paging through the pages, seeing my name on the spine, those things made it finally real.
Of course, in hindsight there are things I would change now about the physical copy. In a digital age I think the book should be a little bit of a special entity, and care should be taken in the smallest details: the texture of the pages, the width of the margins, the spacing of the chapter titles, illustrations around the chapter headings. The book itself can become this visceral reminder of the story. I don’t know about you but every time I see a book that I loved, the cover evokes all those feelings that came with the story. A book is an evocative thing.
For us story lovers, I don’t think digital will ever replace our beloved books. Yes, we may buy the last book in a series in eBook format because we just can’t wait for the paperback or hard cover to come out but if we love it, we’ll probably end up buying it for our bookshelves, won’t we? We can’t help ourselves – holding our favourite book in our hands is as welcome as a kiss on the cheek from someone we fancy.
And what about book stores? I don’t have the same gleeful delight when I browse Amazon as I do when I walk into a bookstore. I’m sure there are some scientific studies out there about the chemicals released in book lovers when the cross the threshold of a bookstore. We know we’re walking into a room full of portals and possibilities. And when we pick those books up, we feel the anticipation of a glorious escape.
But whether or not you are an adamant book lover or a recent eBook convert, I’m glad we’re buying and reading stories. We should support the artists we love and the stores that help sell their work.
Keep reading (and writing).