If you look on my bookshelves, you can tell which books I’ve bought new, and which were used.
The used books are in all stages of wear: some are underlined in someone else’s pen, some are dogeared, almost all have cracked spines. The books I bought new, by comparison, are all pristine. No bends mar their covers. Their spines are unblemished. A coworker of mine likes to tease that I must barely open my books, pantomiming what she thinks I must look like: wrists bent unnaturally, thumbs barely breaching the pages.
It’s not like that. Honest. There’s just some part of me, ever since childhood, that respects the Book. Books are just…different than other media. Cassettes, and now CDs, become outdated. I know only a couple people with a VHS. But books are timeless; if treated well, they last for what seems like forever.
The funny thing is that I don’t mind at all if a book comes to me already damaged. In fact, I love the soft flexibility of a well-read novel. But I can’t bring myself to be the one defacing them. (I’ve actually had my husband “break” a couple books for me while I look away, a task which he takes on gleefully and which makes me shudder.)
I’m fully aware of the hypocrisy here: I’m an eBook author. I publish digitally. I’ve been in a couple “dead tree” books, but haven’t yet offered any of my own. I publish this way because I love the new world that eBooks have opened up to indies like me: they’ve leveled the field and let us writers represent ourselves. They’ve allowed those of us who want more control over our work a way to get it out there with minimal interference. I can carry thousands of books with me everywhere. And the convenience factor can’t be beat; see a book, want a book, have it within seconds, even at three a.m. on a Sunday. I love my Kindle for these reasons and more.
But I can’t deny: physical books have me in a trance. The smell of the paper. The heft of a good thick book in your hands. Seeing your progress through the story as the pages read overtake the pages remaining.
I’m planning to try paper publishing once I get this effing novel finished. I’d like to see my own work alongside the work of so many others on my shelves. You guys will be the first to know when I make that leap.
In the meantime, though, I’d like to hear your views. Do you flip your books inside-out and fold down corners to mark your place? Or do you treat them as “more” than just words, reverently and carefully?