“There was something about the possession of a book that was important to me. Owning it gave me proprietary rights on the story. It meant that I could read as quickly or as slowly as I liked. No expectations, no deadlines, no proscriptions on bent spines or crumpled pages. I was not gentle on my books. I read while I ate, I read in the bathtub. At night, I rolled over on top of my books that had fallen between the covers as I dozed. For me, the worn pages and tattered covers were a sign of devotion. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, the books I read were only real when they were loved. And I understood that love was not always gentle.” Unbound (All Good Things #1)
Back in the day when we lived in our one-bedroom apartment, my books lived wherever I could find room for them - on shelves, on tables, in book crates and baskets. When we moved into a bigger apartment, we bought more bookshelves, but the books continued to dominate whatever decorating choices I made. There were a lot of them. A bigger home meant more books, right?
And then we had a baby. Those with kids know how the STUFF takes over. And I felt less sentimental about my books in the face of overcrowding. I did the one thing that is usually really hard for a bibliophile to do. I culled my book collection. I gave them to friends, dropped them off at used bookstores, and when all else failed, recycled them (I know, don't judge me). My books now live on one (ONE!) bookshelf in my office and a small bookstand beside my bed. And unlike past attempts, the books have not multiplied in the night under the cover of darkness (I used to swear I could hear them canoodling after I went to bed, Asimov totally flirting with Austen, Dickens drinking shots with King).
But I can't blame it all on the kiddo, what really changed the game was my iPad. Now a good chunk of my book collection sits on electronic shelves, which are a lot less pretty and don't smell like anything at all (my husband looks at me strangely when I sniff the iPad). And I can't lend them, which sucks, because I love handing a book to a friend. It's like I'm passing along one of my really good memories.
And yet, I don’t resist the pace of progress. In fact, the iPad with its Kindle and Kobo apps all neatly alphabetical, has won me over. "But, but, but," my old die hard book-self would say (my die hard book-self sounds a lot like Willow Rosenberg, FYI), "you can't touch them and the no smell thing and you know, they're BOOKS." But the thing is Willow, ebooks are really convenient. You can read them in the dark when you’re trying to lull your kiddo into believing he’s tired, you can bring all ten of the books you plan to read on your holiday without a luggage surcharge, and it's so bloody easy to buy one. One click is like the best of times and the worst of times. And I’m reading more than ever (maybe not more than middle school. Books saved me in grade eight).
What I'm trying to say is that, somewhat reluctantly, I’ve adapted, and it’s not so bad. Falling asleep on top of my iPad is pretty uncomfortable and to be honest, really cold, but so far I haven’t dropped it in the bathtub and my book gift certificates go a lot farther. But now and then, I still pull out my first hard cover copies of the Lord of the Rings or Pride and Prejudice and I hold them, and I smell them, and touch the crumpled pages and tea stains, and I reminiscence, old-lady styles, about how good it feels to hold the weight of a book in my hand.