The Never-ending Debate: Paper Books vs. eBooks

I had been reading paper books for over 20 years before giving eBooks a shot. Over the years, I have spent thousands of pounds on books, most of which I only read once, given that my main interest is in fiction. I used to live in a house where there were books everywhere and space to deposit new ones was indeed a problem. At some point, I was forced to “double park” my books on shelves. I spent most of my teenage and young adult years on a continuous quest to find cheap books. I was hunting offers online, spending hours in bookshops that sold used books, not to mention the countless trips to the local library. Carrying a bag full of library books has been a constant over the years. When I moved homes, I suffered in silence thinking of all the books I had left behind in my parents’ house and I was constantly harassing them to bring as many of my beloved books as they could carry whenever they drove over to my new place. My obsession with books was known to everybody and most of the presents I have ever received in my life had pages and covers. Not that I minded. I still cannot imagine living in a house with no books in it. However…

The Christmas of 2010 marked a change in my reading patterns. My boyfriend made me a wonderful surprise in the form of a Kindle. I had of course been very familiar with eBooks, but I only used them for school assignments on an as needed basis. I had never read a proper fiction book on such a device before. The bookworm in me had toyed with the idea of an e-reader before, mostly because I liked how you could store hundreds of books on it and have them available at your fingerprints at all times. So I started reading on my new Kindle and three years later, I find myself addicted to electronic books. This is something I never thought possible, but on the other hand  I hate to feel left behind by technology or any other thing for that matter. Two tablets later, I have finally found the perfect eReader in the form of an iPad mini, which I intend to keep until it falls apart.

This does not mean I  have given up paper books entirely. I still have cravings for paper books, and I satisfy them once in a while. When passing by a bookshop, I still feel the urge to go on a spur of the moment shopping spree. As many other book lovers, I love everything about the books, including their smell and the way they feel in your hands. I am well aware that eBooks are just the same thing, delivering the same stories and ideas in another form. I can read them in any kind of light, I can switch positions as often as I want as no heavy book makes it difficult for me to find a comfortable position. This is important because most of the time I read in bed, so big, heavy hardbacks have always been a source of trouble. I make use of the dictionaries in the iBooks constantly and the last time I read a paper book I tried to double-click a word to check its meaning. Besides these obvious perks, what I probably like most about eBooks is that I can start reading any book crosses my mind in a couple of minutes. No more waiting for the Amazon order to arrive to start reading something I set eyes on last week. This is truly a book lover’s dream, and I’m living it. I still buy paper books, but not fiction anymore. I think that the eBooks cannot be a replacement for art books for instance, so these I’ll continue to buy in paper form forever. I’m pretty sure I’ll have an emotional connection to physical books until the day I die, and I can’t help but wonder if I would have still become such a bookworm in the absence of paper books. I’m pretty sure the answer is no.

Thoughts About Young Adult Fiction

As someone who was already seriously hooked up on fiction well before 1997, I have never read any of the Harry Potter books. I haven’t actually read almost anything that may be classified as young adult fiction. “The Catcher in the Rye” and “To Kill a Mocking Bird” are the closest I ever got to the genre. By the time the Harry Potter mania took the world by storm, I wasn’t attracted to the idea at all. I have never read Tolkien, Frank Herbert, or Terry Pratchett, not to mention the “Twilight” series.

I’m not quite sure why I avoided these names over the years (except for “Twilight”, of course, you wouldn’t catch me dead anywhere near a book about vampires). I guess I was too old for stuff involving too much magic to read Harry Potter. As for the rest, I have never been too attracted to fantasy/Sci-Fi, so it simply didn’t happen.

Last year I thought I should see what the fuss is all about some of the new names in YA fiction, particularly because I got fed up with the cliche that teens fiction is not just for teens anymore. So I read the first volume of the “Hunger Games“, which I found rather interesting in its plot, but badly written. I get it the book is meant to be read by kids/teens, but the language was so simple it was borderline insulting. I managed to finish it, but couldn’t be bothered to read the next two books.

After a while, I decided to give Stephen Chbosky a try, and I’m glad I did. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” was surprisingly one of the best coming of age stories I have ever read. I actually think it held its own in front of Salinger and Harper Lee. I particularly enjoyed the epistolary style, as well as the way Chbosky penned his main character, Charlie, as an introverted teenager who thinks and feels beyond his years. The book references in the text are also quite clever, and the music references bring an invisible soundtrack to the novel, creating something you can almost hear while turning the pages. This book convinced me that some of the books that appear on a YA top list are actually worth considering even if you are closer to 30 than to 16.

The second one is about books

I’ve recently come to realise I have so much catch up to do with fiction it’s scary. To give you an idea, I have yet to read some of the most talked-about books of the last years. “The Book Thief”, “Wolf Hall”, “1Q84”, “White Teeth”, “Solar” are just some of the titles gathering dust on my Goodreads to-read shelf since forever. I have never been what you would call a mainstream reader, but the state I’m in is truly appalling.

Before I hit 20, I was mainly into classics. By the time I was 18 or so, I had read so much Austen, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Dickens, Henry James, Hugo, the Bronte Sisters, Goethe, Fitzgerald, and so on there were few good titles actually left in that area. Not to mention the “original” classics in the form of ancient Greek and Roman authors. So I decided to branch out a bit and started dipping into the 20th century literature. A whole new world opened before me and the possibilities became endless. I began devouring Marquez, Rushdie, Ishiguro, Sartre, Cunningham, Nabokov, Orwell, Bulgakov, Murakami, and the likes. Life got brutally in the way at some point and I found myself downsizing from two or three books a week to two books a month, if that.

I’m now approaching 30 at a fast pace and even though I played catch up with a number of books and remained somewhat connected to what was new and worthy of reading, I still haven’t managed to return to the two to three books per week mark. The good thing though is that there are no longer things in my life that prevent me from reading as much as I want, so I’ve decided that from now on, there is only one reason for not reading constantly, and that is pure laziness. So I am currently  in the process of brushing up my Goodreads account, which I’ve always considered a splendid idea, but never got round to actually use it. When I was younger, I always had to-read lists  somewhere on my desk and I would have killed for something like Goodreads, by the way.

And since it’s sharing time, one of the things I actually regret not doing is keeping a book log or journal of some sort over the years. There are so many books I loved, books that inspired me, books that I was jealous I wasn’t the author of, but when I think about them, I can only remember the way I felt reading them, not the actual story. This is truly frustrating for me, as I have revolved most of my life around books and I’ve got nothing to show for it. If book-blogging were a thing 15 years ago, I would have probably been on top of it. But I’m starting now. I’ll try to document the books I read in a way that will make me remember them 20 years from now. I am currently reading Alice Munro’s “Dear Life” and hopefully I’ll come up with a review in a couple of days.