Being a book-lover is hard. Your TBR pile is constantly growing, there isn’t enough time in the day to read every book in the world, and no matter how rational of an outlet the library is, you just can’t stop BUYING books.
Recently, I started The Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2015 by John Joesph Adams (edited by Joe Hill). Five pages in (five pages – I hadn’t even finished the forward, let alone the introduction), I thought to myself “I love this. I need to go buy it this weekend.”
Why? Why would I need to do that? I have a perfectly good copy rented from the library on my Kindle via Overdrive. Will I read this collection again? Maybe. Why not buy it then? Why not rent it again then? I don’t know – I don’t make the rules here.
It got me thinking: why do I feel such a strong desire to own the physical copy of the book?
When you buy a book, you’re buying more than just a couple hundred pages of bound paper. I don’t have to argue this point with you. You’re buying a story. You’re buying a time-travel machine or a university course. You’re bringing into your home a physical manifestation of something you love – or will hopefully love. An object you can look at on your bookshelf that will take you back to the feelings and sensations you experienced when you read it for the first time. Somehow scrolling through your ebook library just doesn’t have the same effect. It feels distant. Strangely impersonal.
It isn’t only the sentiment we pour into books; it’s how we interact with them. I love marking up a good book – highlighting and underlining, writing notes in the margin. Sure, you can do that in an ebook, as well. But, I would counter, have you ever tried scrolling through your ebook to find your most-loved pages? It isn’t fun or easy. I usually give up around 20 pages in. Those highlights are lost for now, until I decide to pick up the ebook again, aimlessly searching for loved passages.
Plus, bookstores. Need I say more on that point?
Don’t get me wrong, I have 12 unread ebooks on my iPhone and 4 on my Kindle (that I bought last week). I will read them and love them just the same, but in the back of my mind I’ll be curating a (not so) small list of physical books I need to buy. “Maybe at a library sale, or on Book Outlet,” I’ll tell myself.
What are your thoughts on physical books vs. ebooks?