By Lara Salomon
On one hand, I love books. I like the smell of them and the feel of them. I love the suspense of turning a page, holding it in your hands while you try to finish the last sentence as fast as possible, fighting the urge to flip before you are finished. I love how they come in different sizes and shapes, the way that the pages are clean when you get them and colour with age and experience. I love that you can pick up a book and know whether it has been read or not. I love to have them lining my shelves, showing them off to the world as some of my most prized possessions.
On the other hand, I love travelling. And travelling with books is a pain. I still remember when I left to go to Korea, a year long trip, and I tried to pack as many books as I could into my bags. I started out with 20, but the bag was just too heavy, and the books were the first thing to go. I ended up arriving in Cheongju with 5 books to my name, and the thought of not knowing when I would get my next fix brought a tear to my eye.
And so, during the year spent in Korea, I decided that I would need to get myself an eBook reader. Something slim that could hold a world of knowledge behind its elegant electronic ink screen.
My first eBook reader was a Kindle, bought for my birthday in 2012. I woke up on the morning expecting a boardgame and instead found hidden in the box the gadget that I’d been dreaming of. I pulled back the switch and with a blink of life, it brought up the menu. My first instinct was to touch the screen to have it do my bidding, but my Kindle was not quite that advanced. I stared at it in awe and started imagining all the books that I would load onto it… and then it slipped into the recesses of my mind as I continued to read the books that surrounded me rather than succumbing to the temptation that the digital world offered.
When I went to visit family a few months later, I decided to take full advantage of all that the Kindle had to offer, and instead of packing 3 or 4 books into my bags, I loaded them onto the Kindle and slipped it into my handbag. As I sat down on the plane and pulled it out, I found that it perfectly fit the contours of my hand, and as I started reading, I wondered how I had never become accustomed to it before. The screen didn’t glare in your face, the eink moulding itself subtly onto the page so that you could read away for hours. Before I knew it, we had landed and I could slip it easily back into my handbag rather than trying to find space for it.
From then on, I was a Kindle lover all the way. I still had books lining the shelves, but I also had them lining the infinite pages of my reader. I would still walk into book stores and ogle over the latest releases, but I would go home at the end of the day and lie down with a Kindle in the cradle of my arm. It was comfortable. It was simple. It was utter luxury.
And then came the day when my ebook reader met its end at the hand of a badly placed step. Something that a book would have taken with a pinch of salt, the Kindle took as a mortal insult and gave up the ghost. I wept with the indignity of it all, but before long was able to pick myself back up and pick a book from the shelf to read instead. The very same book that I had been plodding through on the Kindle – The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I had all three books in one – most convenient, but also most irritating to read when lying in bed, as leaning the book on my arm led to unnatural contortions that my neck was not meant for. Suddenly I had gone from wondering how I would do without my beloved books, to not knowing what to do with them. I found myself yearning for the electronic screen, for the one button change of page, for the pleasure of never losing my place and always picking up where I had left off. Games of scrabble were just not the same without the Kindle’s Oxford dictionary at hand.
To this day, I am a lover of books both physical and electronic, but I understand far better the difference in comfort and convenience that the eBook readers have to offer where the hard- and paper-backs falter, and I know that no eBook will provide me with the same suspense, the same longing that the feel of paper under my fingers could.
And so I live in a world in between the two, where I carry with me both paper and computer, both typewritten and digital, and the two can never meet.
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