One of the books I recently donated contained a bookmark from the Maine Coast Book Shop, a place I’m sure I’ve never been.  On the back of the bookmark were four handwritten words:  avatar, Savonarola, apocryphal and puissant.   This random discovery is one of the many things I like about actual, physical, tangible books.  You find stuff in them (literarily of course, and in this case, quite literally).  You can write yourself notes on bookmarks or post-its or in the margins.  Things that make you laugh out loud years later when you discover them out of context.  Books can even provide a connection to others.  My mother and I used to leave each other notes in the books we lent to each other.  This is probably one of my biggest complaints about e-readers.  This loss of physicality.  I don’t want my books stacked somewhere in a cloud.  I want them where I can see them and touch them. 

So clearly I’m still on the side of “traditional” reading, rather than e-reading.  But I cannot have a house overridden with books I’ve already read.  Add to that my almost pathological inability to pass a bookstore, nay a book aisle in the grocery store without buying something.  Which brings me to the finer points of e-reading which I think are beneficial to me personally.  1) e-books do not cause cascading piles of tomes around my house 2) e-books are generally cheaper (discounting, well, discount aisles at bricks and mortar bookstores) which is a nice plus and 3) it’s much easier to purchase them via my favorite book-buying venue Amazon. 

This third one is questionably advantageous.  It is an observable fact that I cannot listen to more than 10 minutes of NPR or read a single New York Times Sunday book review without purchasing at least one book.  Should I happen to have my e-reader on me at one of those times, the sheer ease of book purchasing could do me in – financially.  And without the physical evidence to remind me of my pathology, I may not know it until it was too late.  Something to ponder.

However the first two are certainly benefits and have prompted me to strike what I think is a solid compromise.  One that straddles the line and, hopefully, puts technology to good use, which still holding true to my inner, bibliophile self.  Every reader knows, on the outset, that some books are not purchased for long-term.  We know they are not enduring relationship material.  Perhaps we know the author and he/she has proven themselves superficial in the past.  Or maybe there is a “now a major motion picture” sticker on the cover.  On the other hand, there are some that generally promise to be keepers in the literal sense.  Classics, for instance, or a work from a beloved author.   I argue that anything that I would buy in trade paperback, for instance, should be an e-book.  Anything in hardcover should be an actual book.  This system isn’t full proof of course, since one can find gems that might be future re-reads just by stumbling upon them.  And of course, even classics can fall flat (in my opinion, any time they are Russian).    

Interestingly the day I made this decision, my beloved Amazon came out with the new Paperwhite.  A sign from above?  Perhaps. . .

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