I have always loved books. As a child I don’t remember spending a lot of time playing with dolls or toys (or other kids for that matter) but I do remember always being able to put my hands on a book. Mum and Dad weren’t great readers themselves but once they realized they had bred a brood of readers they always made sure there were books available to us. Books were standard fare for birthdays and Christmas and ‘just because’ presents.
I loved the feel of books and the smell of books, as well as the words they carried. So much so that I didn’t just borrow books, read them and pass them on—oh no—I bought my own, treasured copies of them. Hundreds of them. Over the years I stacked them on shelves, on tables, behind doors and under beds. I built towers of them leaning up against walls (my dogs soon learned to give these leaning towers a wide berth!). When I was younger and constantly travelling my suitcases were most likely to be carrying more books than were necessary and less clothes than I actually needed. When I moved house crates and crates of books went with me. I admit it—I was personally responsible for the doom of thousands and thousands of trees. And then a couple of years ago I decided enough was enough—I was drowning in books.
I am not quite sure what brought it on (possibly one of those mad ideas we get occasionally about downsizing or simplifying our lives) but I psyched myself up, clenched my teeth and set to culling, and, after a week or so of feverish packing in boxes, I eventually gave away the vast bulk of my beloved books to the local Rotary sale.
As the poor man who had come to collect them staggered out of the door with the last load I remember feeling very relieved and really proud of myself—for about an hour. Then I went into what can only be called ‘withdrawal’. I was in a cold sweat for days wondering whether I should have given away this book or that book and constantly asking myself ‘What on earth was I thinking?’ I even had to take an alternative route to work so I wouldn’t see the sign for the book sale and break down and go in and buy more books—probably even buy back some of the books I had just given away!
But I held fast. It took a while but gradually I started to enjoy the extra space I had in the house. I had room to rearrange my other things, move furniture around—and, an unforeseen perk—there was suddenly much less dusting to do!
But it wasn’t all that easy. I swear my palms would actually itch as I put my head down and forced myself to walk past bookshops because I knew I just couldn’t go in and browse—I would have to buy something. Just one small book couldn’t hurt—oh, this one looks really good—heard this one is great. Nope. Just couldn’t risk it.
And I managed to keep that up for a long, long time. And then one day my friend showed me her ‘Kindle’.
Being a rabid book lover, I do get it when people say reading from an e-reader is ‘just not the same’. They don’t have that special unique physicality of a book; the dog-eared pages and scribbles in the margins, the booky smell, the creaky spines and loose raggedy pages of a much loved favorite read, but (and here is me finally stepping into the 21st century) honestly—what’s not to like about a small, lightweight device that will fit in my handbag; that I can shop for directly online (while sitting at home in a favourite chair with a nice glass of red beside me) and have my choice of books (or samples of them) downloaded directly to me within minutes of buying.
AND—this was the clincher for me—my kindle (yes, of course I bought one!) can hold up to 3,000 books! If they were real books I would have to move to a larger house. Oh oh—I can feel my palms starting to itch again . . .