I have always been an avid reader. Once upon a time, that meant carrying a bag full of books with me everywhere I went: usually one set of books for school, at least one book of fiction, and at least one other nonfiction book for non-school-related research. A heavy backpack or messenger bag went with me everywhere. Sometimes people, including my friends, would make fun of me for that: “Why do you have your big bag with all of your books? You don’t have school today.”
Riding the bus everywhere played a big part in why I always carried a large bag (I think that most people take for granted how much stuff they always have with them in their car), but I also just wanted to take my books with me. Even if I only had a few minutes to read while I was sitting and waiting for someone else to show up, or be seated at a restaurant, I liked having my books there. And I couldn’t pick just one book to bring with me, even knowing that I would not read every single one of them on a given day: I wanted the flexibility to choose what I wanted to read in the moment.
Knowing that bag space was at a premium, and the amount that I could comfortably carry without hurting my back, you would think that I would be one of the first people to jump on ebooks for convenience. But honestly, I didn’t start using an ebook reader until two years ago.
Why did I resist digital books for so long? Well, at first they seemed like a big inconvenience. Who wanted to squint at blurry print on a tiny screen? Or worse, sit at my computer to read a book, when I could be curled up in bed or sitting in a tree outside? At first, not many books were available as ebooks and most of what I wanted to read came in printed form only. And buying an expensive piece of technology just to read a book seemed like a silly idea.
But it was also the romance of the printed book that kept me stubbornly resisting the idea of even trying out ebooks. I love paper and the way it feels between my fingers. I love crisp new hardbound books with their slick covers and worn old paperbacks that curve to fit my hand. I love the smell of books, and I love to look up at the bookshelves which line my walls and scan the list of titles, recognizing old friends.
But now I am on my second tablet, and I read ebooks on the tablet and on my tiny cell phone screen, too. I love being able to turn up the brightness or lower it so that the text is always at the right level of illumination for me to read–instead of struggling with book lights or buying higher wattage bulbs for my lamps, because eye strain from reading in low light gives me headaches. I have more books available at my fingertips now than I have room for in my entire house, let alone my bag–and I also have access to the Internet where I can look up even more references, buy more books with one click (such a dangerous thing to have an ebook reader and a credit card!), and a note-taking app for jotting down all of my ideas, which also eliminates me needing to carry around five notebooks everywhere. (That’s another story for another time.)
I still love printed books, but now I can be choosier about which books I buy in print. My straining bookshelves are reserved for my truly favorite books, the books with sentimental value that I have kept with me since childhood, my endless collection of notebooks, for lavish art books and for those books that I still can only get in print. I still carry some of these books with me sometimes, but I am not tied to my heavy bag–my eBook reader fits in a smallish purse, and my phone fits in a pocket!