I’ve admitted more than once that I really love books. Physical copies of books–faded print, broken spines, dogears and all. I get the good things about e-readers, but I’m hard copy all the way.
There’s a part of this that’s neither aesthetic nor financial. I spend a lot of time writing on a computer. I edit my own work on a computer. I occasionally edit work for other writers on a computer. For me, an electronic screen equals work, not pleasure.
This year, for the first time ever, I haven’t been able to read a book I would very much like to read because its print version is both expensive and not available any of the places I hoard gift certificates from. It’s unlikely to show up at a library. I could get it easily as an e-book, but I don’t want to do so. I want the feel of it in my hands–more so because the the author writes in a rich, sensual style, and I want those words to have physical weight.
It’s an odd experience. Books have always felt like the one garden that’s remained ungated in my life. Technically, it’s not true. Publishing has always been a system that limits the work reaching the hands of readers. E-books and the rise of self-publishing have broadened the possibilities, not narrowed them.
It doesn’t change the fact that I felt actual loss over the idea that I would not hold this particular book in my hands. More than that, it reminded me that my life as a reader has boundaries, whether I wish it to or not. While I can celebrate the potential inherent in the coming electronic age, I can also mourn aspects of the change.