I didn’t realize it, but I did. I got a kindle a couple of years ago, mainly because I wanted something that was easier to read in bed at night. I’ve always been a reader and when I was working, I did most of my reading in bed, so an e-reader seemed like a good decision.
When I first got it, it was pure love. I could read without disturbing my husband or having to fiddle around with a book light. When I was done with a book, I could shop for a new book without having to find time to get to the bookstore or even leaving my bed I got hooked up to the library’s digital catalog and there was no turning back.
After a few months, there was trouble in paradise. My Kindle is linked to a dictionary and Wiki, which is really great, but not without it’s caveats. Trying to find out what a turn of phrase meant or trying to picture what a certain flower looked like was only as difficult as highlighting and holding my finger on the screen. The downfall was/is that it is so much easier to get distracted and wander off to Pinterest, Google images and your book stays by the wayside.
There is nothing that matches the feeling of wandering through a bookstore and browsing the shelves. You can do this online, but without the smell of paper and the promise held in the cover images as they sit on the shelf, well, it just isn’t the same. Libraries are like churches to me, and I missed going into the hallowed silence and walking through the stacks, fingers grazing the spines, looking for the titles that called to me. It was almost a spiritual experience, and some of the best books that I’ve read were found just wandering and picking up what looked interesting. The creative energy of so many authors vibrating through the shelves is almost tangible and makes online browsing feel antiseptic.
The other day I took my kids to the library to use the kids computers, wander the stacks and just hang out. I began walking down the quiet aisles and a book caught my eye. The cover art was whimsical without being precious and the author was one whose stories I enjoyed. I held the thick volume in my hand and let my fingers run over the pages,the soft edges tickling my fingertips. I carried it with me as I helped my 5 year old daughter pick a book and placed it on the counter along with Harry Potter and Madeline. It sat on my kitchen table for a couple of days since I was finishing up a kindle book on my kindle. I finally picked it up one night before bed. My husband was in Louisiana for work, and I had the bed, and the bedside lamp,to myself. I began reading without the illuminated pages and felt my eyes relax, which was interesting, because I wasn’t aware of the initial strain of the screen. I was reminded of how reading was an escape after I put the book down. No distractions just a flick away, just me and the story. I realized that reading was a tactile experience and I’d missed it.
I can’t say that I’m done with my kindle. I like the convenience and I have a subscription service where I can read as many books as I’d like without having to deal with waiting lists and holds. I also don’t have room for physical books. Still, I think that it’s important to revisit the experience of reading an actual book. Savoring the feeling of taking little sips of words as the author paints a picture and grasping the pages in our hands, forever a testament to the fact that words do matter.