Books, eBooks; Libraries and Bookstores

I have always dreamed about having a library in my home. A cozy room filled with beautiful books, lots of windows, dark wood, comfy chairs with soft ottomans and possibly a fireplace.

 

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McGregor Room at the University of Virginia

Here’s the problem, though: I actually hate buying books! I’ve always been a library girl. In fact, I remember signing my first library card when I was in like first grade. And I was incredibly insulted when I was in high school and my dad and I decided to get cards from a different city (when it was free to do so) and I was told that my dad had to sign my card because I was a minor and apparently couldn’t be trusted with their books!

When eBooks came into vogue, I vowed I would never switch to them. I love everything about physical books. The look of them. The weight of them. The smell of them. But I don’t like the price of them, so I shall never have my beautiful library full of books in my home.

In high school I finally got access to the internet at home (dial-up on an ancient computer) and learned all about ordering library books from home to be available for pickup at my leisure. This solved the problem I’d developed after years of library usage: I’d pretty much read everything that I knew I’d like and was having trouble finding new books to read. I dreaded having to search the shelves.

Then I went to college and didn’t have much time for personal reading despite access to more than 5 million books and gorgeous libraries.

After college, I was back to devouring books. I’d found the Goodreads website and quickly had a to-read list of nearly a thousand books! With even better internet access at home (WIFI and a laptop!) I was able to peruse the library catalog at my leisure, compare it to my to-read list and order a stack for my dad to pick up on his way home from work (he was also doing all his book ordering online).

It was a great system, but with one small flaw: the quickest possible turnaround was about 24 hours, so even when I really wanted to read the next book in a series, I was forced to wait. I always had to anticipate what I’d be in the mood to read for the next 3 weeks or so, because I had a personal rule not to order more than 5 books at a time, with the expectation that they would come in 2 or 3 at a time because of other people checking them out.

I was content with this system for a good 5 years, but then I moved in with my husband and even though I had no trouble getting my library books because I work with my dad and he’d bring them with him, I was starting to seriously consider eBooks. I’d already started playing around with them because the library had been advertising their eBooks on their website and the Overdrive app was easy to install on my computer. It was very convenient to get the books I wanted to read immediately, except of course, when someone had already checked them out. The problem was that the computer screen isn’t very conducive to reading traditional books, for me at least. It’s just not comfortable, especially when I’m laying in bed to read myself to sleep.

Reading in bed has actually been one of the biggest selling points for switching to eBooks on an eReader. After fumbling with 2 different book-lights and getting annoyed with falling asleep with the lamp on or not being able to have the lamp on because my husband was in bed with me, I decided that I needed to make the switch.

I knew I wanted a tablet because I wanted it to double as a radio for work. I knew I wanted it to have a screen about the size of a paperback book. The Amazon Fire at $50 was the perfect price and since I knew I was going to get most of my eBooks from the library (the rest from Project Gutenberg), it didn’t matter if it didn’t have much internal memory (because library books expire).

After a year of having my tablet (which I call “my book” and it’s case is decorated as a black and white composition book) I still feel some guilt about abandoning traditional books, but then I remind myself that in all reality, my consumption of books has not changed. I still get nearly all of my books from the library and so long as they are comparatively priced, the authors who create the works are not harmed by the switch.

As for the printers, I work in a print shop and am still confused about timecards. I am resigned to the fact that I will most likely lose my job within 20 years (and this is being generous for the industry). This is reality. I am not sad. Besides, there are so many damn typos in modern books it’s nauseating and I have always preferred letterpress to offset printing, so it’s not like I’m going to fall in love with the typography of modern books any time soon. Okay, there are a few that are very pretty (The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor instantly come to mind) and I do like that many hardcover books today have the trend of leaving the edges of the pages (the signatures?) rough instead of cutting them flush and are using nicer and nicer papers…but the cost!

I know in my heart that I will never purchase them so long as the library owns them and I will only re-read them about once a decade if I ever decide to re-read them!

At the end of the day, what matters to me most is the story and an eBook can give that to me easier than a traditional book. Because I do so love to read in bed!

But…I do have a confession to make. When the occasion occurs that I want to purchase a book because the library doesn’t own it (and refuses to purchase it), or because it’s something I really, really, really want on my bookshelf, I will purchase the traditional book not the eBook. Of course, it will most likely be used and come via Amazon because finding used books in a shop is like finding a book in the library…a bit of a crap-shoot. Great for the people who love that, not so much fun for me.

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