Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

August 4, 2013

Bookshelf upgraded to digital age

— I never thought it would happen but I have finally upgraded my bookshelf to the digital age.

I am used to my books being tangible, to shoving them on bookshelves that barely have any room to fit anything else. I’ve always enjoyed the smell of the pages and the sensation of cracking open a spine. Of course, it gets hard to manage eight to nine bookshelves in addition to numerous boxes and stacks of books littered all over the place.

It might take a couple of hours to find or remember where I shoved a certain book I’m looking for, but usually in the process I find a bunch of books I forgot I had. Of course, the downside of this is finding I have multiple copies of the same book because I purchased it twice not knowing I already owned a copy.

My personal library is a collection made up of years of birthdays, Christmases, used book sales, mall visits and library benefit sales. I have books in languages I can’t read because of their beauty. I have multiple copies of some books because I like the 1960s covers but feel the annotations in the 1980s copy are better.

I might be what you call a book snob or at least a book hoarder. My mother and I were once watching a reality show about a pair of book hoarders and my mother was convinced I would be the one, in 20 years, who had massive stacks of books holding up walls and preventing me from keeping a working bathroom in my house. I disagreed, preferring to think I own my books and not the other way around.

I have to say I was very skeptical of e-readers when they first came out. I didn’t think they could equal the sensation of turning the page, of closing a book when you’ve finished it or be as easy to bookmark as their ink-and-paper counterparts. In high school I picked up the habit of doodling and writing in my books. My teachers called it “close reading” but it was more just to mark things I found interesting or to write a reaction to something I had just read. I was pretty sure having an e-reader would kill my habit of doodling in the margins.

That all changed this past weekend when I opened up a box and pulled out my very first e-reader.

As I started shopping around online I found that e-readers might have some advantages.

First of all, the books you could download were much cheaper than the ones you had to buy and have shipped to your house. My book buying budget has never been as big as I would like it to be so saving 80 percent on something I’ve been wanting to read for months was a very tempting offer.

Then I found out how many books were available for download for free. There is something to be said for the phrase “public domain,” especially when it gets you the complete works of Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jane Austen without spending a single penny.

The fact that all of my books would be neatly stored and organized on one, giant online bookshelf was also a bonus. It would be a lot easier to find something by scrolling over a screen than digging through shelves, cabinets and boxes.

Then there were the apps. I love my old bookshelves but none of them have the ability to switch screens so I can play “Angry Birds” between chapters. Solitaire is pretty fun too, and I am just now starting to explore all of the different things I can do on my e-reader when I’m not actually using it for reading.

It was pretty amazing to see all of the things that could fit on a such a small piece of technology. I have already downloaded a bookshelf full of reading material onto it in a matter of days. I have more than a month’s worth of reading material already, and hope having a new toy to play with will keep my nose in a book for a long time.

I still get that page-flipping sensation when I scroll through the books. Though e-readers haven’t quite been able to replicate the smell of a library or bookshelf, I’m pretty sure there will be an app for that eventually as well.

Sure, I still have plenty of hardcover and paperback editions to leaf my way through and I know the novelty of the online book may never hold the same place in my heart as those hardcovers I used to read under the covers with a flashlight at night.

However, this is a piece of new technology that is getting a lot of people to read who weren’t before, which makes it worth the while.

Kate Coil is a reporter at the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at kcoil@bdtonline.com.

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