The Bibliophile and the E-Reader

I am a bibliophile – we are constantly having to go through our bookshelves to make room at our house for new books.  I love books and not just the stories in the pages, but the pages themselves.  There is something so incredibly wonderful about the crispness of the page, the sound as you turn it, the smell of the book, and the feel in your hands.  I know the joy that comes with sitting up all night with one light on reading a book because you simply can’t imagine putting it down (hello, Harry Potter).  So when it seems like the book could be going the way of the dodo thanks to E-Readers, well, I worry.

No one can tell me you get the same experience from an E-Reader.  For ages I had friends telling me I had to get one.  “They’re so small and compact.”  “You can store tons of books for when you travel (just don’t drop it in the pool).”  Pretty much all my friends had one and loved them.  But not I.  I wanted my books.  I would not be sucked in to the evil that was threatening the existence of my beloved books with pages.

And then I had a baby.

If you’ve had a baby, you’ll probably know that for the first few months, you spend a lot of time holding your baby and feeding them.  My daughter was constantly nursing and in the haze of the first few months, I watched a lot of TV.  I used the middle of the night wakings to watch the entire series of Sex and the City as my daughter nursed and stared around our living room, taking in her new world.  I didn’t read in the very beginning because my brain had enough of a hard time simply focusing on things like, oh, eating or walking.  Soon, however, I was ready to read again – eager to read again – but to my horror I found that an act that had brought me so much joy was far too difficult.

The books were too heavy to hold one-handed (I still had carpel tunnel syndrome in one wrist).  Flipping pages was difficult one-handed.  And if my daughter was nursing such that my right hand was busy holding her, well, it was even harder to do all this left-handed.

My husband, also a bibliophile (he used to own a used bookstore), understood and lamented with me.  Then came my birthday and my husband gave me… a Kobo e-reader.  I will say it was shiny and nice, but is this really what I wanted?

I put a couple books on it just to try it out.  And one day as my daughter lay nursing and napping on me and I realized I couldn’t take more TV, I decided to try it out.  I pulled out this light Kobo, which contained a book I was actually interested in reading, and started.  My wrist didn’t hurt, I could turn pages by just tapping the screen.  I was reading.

Yeah, the sound of the pages wasn’t there, nor was the smell or the sharp contrast of the typed letters on a cream-coloured page, but I was reading.  And it was wonderful.  I honestly never would have imagined that the technology I feared was trying to replace my beloved books would actually be able to bring me some peaceful times with a story of another place and another world to immerse myself in.  I never would have imagined the Kobo would allow me to enjoy my stories again while enjoying my time as a new mother.  But that’s exactly what it did.

My daughter is now older and I can safely read my books again, which I admit I prefer to the Kobo (I’m still the bibliophile).  However, my Kobo still gets enough use by my putting pdfs of articles on it for school, word documents from friends (I have amazingly gifted storyteller friends who aren’t published, but will send me their stories), and books for review.  The software that allows me to convert word and pdf to epub has made reading at the laptop a thing of the past and that is something I truly appreciate.  And of course, hopefully one day we’ll have yet another baby in the house, and this time I know I can read as much as I want as soon as I’m ready.

I suppose if a cranky bibliophile like me can find some good in new technology, it’s not all bad, is it?

Do you use an e-reader?  What has been the best benefit for you personally?

By Tracy Cassels

October 11, 2013