I want to confess something: I love paperback books.
Yeah, I know that ebooks are cheaper and easier and generally awesome, but I love my paper.
I grew up in a house filled with books. I think literally every room had a bookshelf in it. In fact one entire wall of my mother’s spare bathroom is a large bookshelf. So if you if have to be constipated, that’s the room to do it in, my friends.
Books were the landscape of my childhood. They were always present, dusty and cluttered on tables and sometimes in stacks on the floor. I think their presence in my life was what made me a reader. Yes, my parents read to me and encouraged me to read, but they also surrounded me with books. I assumed everyone’s house was like that, a little dusty, with teetering piles of fiction on bedside tables. I thought everyone read before bed, like my mother did, or spent lazy Saturday mornings on the couch with a book and a plate full of snacks between us.
When I went to school, books were not threatening or challenging; they were something totally familiar and comforting to me. I associated the smell of new hardcovers and used paperbacks with my mother, a voracious reader herself. When my teacher friends tell me that they have kindergarteners who don’t know how to hold a book, how to orient it, my heart breaks a little.
I totally jumped on the ebook bandwagon when it came out though. I got a Nook, then a Kindle, and realized the pain of clicking buy impulsively when my credit card statement came. One month I spent almost $400 on ebooks. Oops.
There are tons of reasons to love ebooks. I think digital publishing would have changed high school for me completely. I remember reading Harlequin Presents in high school, breaking the spines because I smashed them down on the table in study hall so no one could see I was reading The Greek Tycoon’s Virgin Amnesiac Secretary’s Secret Royal Baby. I lived in terror of being found out. I would leave the books with the really bad clinch covers at home because I knew if someone caught me reading them I’d be humiliated.
To be fair, romance novel covers were kind of awful then. Remember Man of My Dreams by Johanna Lindsey? What the fuck is he doing to her back? Is he penetrating her shoulder blade with his penis? The hell…
I would check out romances from the library, squishing them between books I had zero intention of reading, just to hide them. My face would turn red when the librarian checked me out because she obviously knew I was reading about sex. The horror!
Buying them was no less daunting. I was convinced the bookstore employees had a secret conference after I left, discussing my trashy taste in fiction.
If ebooks had been a thing then, I would have been able to read and buy and rent without this anxiety. I would have been free to indulge in ALL THE JOHANNA LINDSEYS RIGHT IN FRONT OF PEOPLE. It would have been glorious.
I also appreciate the convenience of ebooks, especially for travel. I read a lot on vacation, and on business trips, and I used to have to make choices like “Well, I can wear my panties for two days each if I wear them inside out on the second day, so that leaves room for more books.” Books are heavy. Airlines are assholes. A Boeing 747 can carry the fucking space shuttle, but my two hardcovers are pushing us over the weight limit?
Plus if you get stuck somewhere, you have unlimited books on your ereader. Unless you’re like me and you forget your Kindle while airline hell banishes you to Cleveland. Or Huntsville. Or you just circle Atlanta until everyone on board is likely to die from old age.
Last time I was stuck in the Cleveland airport for eight hours, I bought all three Fifty Shades of Grey books from the bookseller there and read them, my rage ratcheting up by the page. When I finally boarded my plane, the flight attendant asked me how I was and I replied, “Well, I’m not safe, sane or consensual, that’s for fucking sure.”
Okay, I probably said “Fine, thanks.” But I thought it.
So if ebooks are all the awesome, why do I like paper so much? Why do I still prefer it? Lots of reasons.
I love living in a house filled with books. I love the physical presence of books in my life. I love their smell and the way they keep me from having to decorate because they take up all my wall space anyway.
I love used books. Used bookstores are treasure troves for the weird and awesome. You can find the best Old Skool shit there. I mean, look at this:
What the ever-loving fuck is with that mustache? Is he gonna tie her to the railroad tracks?
Plus I love it when you buy a used book and the person before you has left notes or receipts or grocery lists inside. It’s like a mystery, trying to figure out the previous owner. I like it less when you open a page and find a Mystery Stain and are all like “Please, Jesus, let that be Nutella.”
I like passing my books along too. I give them to friends and family members, and I donate them. I don’t really want to own my books. I just want to be a rest stop for them during the course of their lives. Sure, I keep the ones I really, really love, but I like the idea that a paperback can have a dozen different homes in its life.
Cover art has changed too (thank God), and I love the bright, colorful covers that are being shown now. I really adore the Giant Colorful Circus Tent Skirt trend that’s taken over historicals. I appreciated Fabio, but I’m glad he’s gone.
Most importantly though, I don’t give a shit if people know what I’m reading. I stopped being embarrassed a long time ago. I read my romances in restaurants, at work, while waiting at the doctor. Fuck you, if you want to judge me. Some dude is sitting next me with a confederate flag shirt. Give him the side-eye.
I like that when I read them in public I’ll have women, and sometimes men, ask me if the book is any good, if I’ve tried a certain author, if I can recommend something. I need a button that says “I read romances and erotica. Ask me how!”
So, what about you? How do you read? Are you a digital diva? Do paperbacks trip your trigger? Or is it a blend?