Nancy Volkers is the author of “A Scottish Ferry Tale“. She is currently doing an author blog tour to promote her book, which I managed to become a part of. I decided that I would like to do a week of posts revolving around her novel, and Nancy graciously wrote a guest post for my blog after very little begging on my part. Thank you, Nancy!
Don’t forget to keep an eye on my blog during this week, and be sure to check out Nancy’s website here.
I’m sitting in the airport eating lunch, waiting to fly back to Vermont from Washington, D.C. As I get up to head to the gate, I see a man at the next table reading a book on his Kindle. Meanwhile, my backpack is at least a pound heavier than it was three days ago — thanks to a trip to one of my favorite independent bookstores.
I see the appeal of an e-reader. You can easily carry your own personal library with you — on the plane, into Starbucks, through the airport. Ebooks are generally less expensive than “hard copies,” and there are thousands of free ones as well. Once you’re finished, there’s no question of storage — no need for bookcases or boxes full of books, labeled “Donate” or “Goodwill.”
I don’t own an e-reader. The irony is that my own two novels are sold almost exclusively in e-book format — in March, for example, I sold 30 times as many Kindles as paperbacks. The price difference is certainly part of what’s skewing that — why pay $8 for a paperback when you can get the same book for 99 cents?
Here’s one reason. Reading has always been a five-sense experience for me. Seeing a book from my childhood brings back a flood of memories. I had this set of books – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe were among them, though I don’t remember the rest. The books were hardcover, dark blue with green trim.
I read these books countless times as a kid — sometimes at the dinner table when the meal often appeared to include a great deal of tomato sauce (as the pages illustrated). I don’t own these books anymore, but a friend has the same set, and each time I visit her and see them on her shelf, it brings back not only the memories of the novels, but memories of my childhood — the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feel of being 9 or 10 or 11 years old.
While in D.C. for a long weekend, I finished a novel by Jodi Picoult. Not my normal reading, but I know if I ever pick up that paperback again I’ll remember the feeling of lying on the air mattress in a 4th floor Dupont Circle apartment. I’ll remember how the fleece blankets fit around me like a nest, and the pillows were just right (not too firm and not too mushy).
I’ll remember the comfort of long conversations and the smell of hot French-press coffee and the taste of croissants so buttery that they moisturized my skin. I’ll remember waking at 4 am to sirens and looking out the window at a false fire alarm across the street, with early-spring snowflakes in the air, chilling the windowpane against my palm. I’ll remember waking late and strolling in the weak afternoon sunshine, with the Capitol behind me and the Washington Monument in the distance ahead.
I’m not sure that holding a Kindle in my hands can give me those types of memories. Perhaps it can. Perhaps for many people, the five-sense memories of books long-ago read isn’t important, or doesn’t even register.
But I think I’ll stick to paperbacks a little bit longer.
– Nancy Volkers
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