I don’t think I’ll ever really be able to deal with an e-reader. I mean, I certainly love the idea of them – the convenience, the portability, and the streamlined look and feel. I watch people reading them on the trains and they always look so secure; effortlessly holding onto the pole with one hand, and their e-reader in the other. That sort of balancing act isn’t always so easy with real books.
E-readers won’t cut it for me because as far as I am concerned, books aren’t just about content. And my enjoyment of books just doesn’t just come from the words on the page.
I love the weight of a book in my hands. It is the bulk of someone’s hard work, imagination and creativity. I love turning crisp pages, or even well-worn ones (sometimes especially those). I like the way old books smell. Old things don’t always smell so good. I enjoy reading random phrases – or entire paragraphs – that people have underlined. Or notes they have made in the margins. I love reading back over the notes I’ve made in margins. I don’t care that some books make my handbag bulge or force me to cradle the book in my arms, just so I can bring it along with me. I will often forsake trashy magazines at the hair salon, just so I can squeeze a few more chapters in. A chapter or two read at night will be just the thing to relax my brain after a long day. To my mind, the book is always better than the movie. But I also love it when the book and the movie are nothing alike, but you only know that for sure if you’ve actually read the book first. Sigh, bliss.
Always a fan of a bookshop or fair, I was totally hooked when I spent about 90 minutes getting lost in Strand Bookstore in the East Village. Home to 18 miles of books, the store is jam-packed with new and used, popular, rare and even out-of-print works. I wandered in with no idea what I was looking for and as I started to browse the shelves, my attention was drawn to the leather-bound classics at the very back of the store. As I thumbed the creaking spines, so many familiar titles leapt out at me. Well-known authors, like old friends, stared back at me. Austen, Dante, Chaucer, and Shakespeare – they were all there. In the end I settled on a leather-bound but second-hand copy of the American classic, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. Eight chapters in, and I’m convinced the book should have come with its own pack of Kleenex. And I know how this book ends too, so it’s only going to get worse. Not a book to read in public, unless you don’t mind public displays of snivelling and random outrage.
Then of course I find out today that people are being cautioned about buying second-hand goods because of bedbugs! Can you believe it? That never occurred to me. I thought the biggest problem you had with second-hand stuff was dust. Is this bedbug thing just an urban legend? I think if Strand had infected me, I’d be itching and scratching already but so far, so good.
And besides, if bedbugs are going to live in second-hand things that I buy, perhaps instead of complaining about it, I should just appreciate their excellent taste?