The Pleasure of Reading an Actual, Physical Book
Catching up with a friend recently, the talk turned to what we’ve been reading. During the discussion, he mentioned that he’s only reading actual books right now, the kind made of wood pulp sandwiched between two covers. It’s not that he doesn’t have digital devices. He just likes the pleasure of holding a book in his hands.
Oh, I get it. I’m sure most readers and writers do. Even so, most of my reading lately has not been out of “real” books. For the last several years, I’ve been researching online. I have had books sent to me through interlibrary loan, but so many of the original sources are already available in digital formats. Most of my own library, the books that survived downsizing, is still boxed up since we anticipate a second move. There’s just a small portion of my Agatha Christie collection and a couple Christmas gifts that I can actually hold in my hands.
Culling our library when we moved was so painful! Some books I hadn’t read in years, but I just liked having them on the shelf, waiting for me. Some had special memories because of who gave them to me or what I experienced when reading them. Some were childhood favorites that I hoped to share with other youngsters someday. But there simply isn’t enough room to keep them all.
I did keep my Christie books, of course. I don’t have any collectible editions, but I do have some old-ish versions. Unfortunately, the Midwest had what they called a “Hundred Year Flood” back in the 1990s and the water reached the lowest shelves, ruining many of my paperbacks.
The ones that didn’t become paper pulp bricks I dried out and saved. Their pages are ruffled and stained, but they are still books you can hold in your hands. You can scan the pages for your favorite parts and flip back easily to confirm a detail you missed the first time.
I also have a digital reader, a gift from my son who has an enormous collection of books himself. It has very definite advantages, such as the ability to upload whole libraries and take them with you when traveling. That’s pretty great, but my friend pointed out that it makes author book signings tricky. However, I’ve been reading lately about authors and NFTs, so maybe someone has come up with a way to sign digital books or will soon.
Even so, there will always be something both magical and comfortable about reading an actual hold-it-in-your-hands, turn-the-pages, touch-it, smell-it, real book. Don’t you agree?