Like you, I love reading. It’s part of my everyday life. If I’m not reading a book, I’m reading a magazine. If I’m not reading an article on the Internet I’m reading a newspaper. I never make a trip without a book and I never leave home without an article saved on Pocket or on Medium pending to be read. Reading is something I just consider to be routine, like listening to music or even breathing. That’s why my relationship with books (physical or digital ones) has been full of ups and downs. This is the story.
My first love
I read books since I am able to read. Like most of the people, I began with fairy tales and stories for kids. When I grew up a little bit, I moved one step forward: novels. At the beginning it was a little bit of fantasy and a little bit of classics. The Little Prince, Frankenstein, and things like that. Years passed by and so did my reading experiences. There was a time in which I would spend hours and hours immersed in love books, or parts of my life which were totally full of football stuff: biographies, books about tactics and strategies, even novels. Harry Potter marked a before and an after in my life. I’ve never liked science fiction (not even now), until I read the JK Rowling’s invention. That was the beginning and the end of my relationship with fantasy. Now, I’m more into business, lifestyle and detective novels. What I’m trying to say here is that I’ve read a lot of books in my life, all paper books. What does that mean? I had a lot of books. Yes, “had”, not anymore. And here’s why…
I’m from a small town of Argentina, and when I finished high-school I moved to Buenos Aires, the capital city. It was much better to study journalism in the heart of the country. I decided to take all of my books with me. Of course I wanted to have them on my shelves. Because they were mine, I had read them, they were part of my life. Nearly 200 books in boxes from one point of the country to the other one. I remember we travelled 1.500km by car. My dad was the driver, I was sitting next to him and my mum was at the back. I had two suitcases, two boxes full of stuff for my room, kitchen and living room and two boxes full of books. Yes, more than 30% of my belongings were books.
I spent almost four years in Buenos Aires. There was a book shop exactly next to the building I lived in. I would read a book per week (plus the things I had to study for university). So my shelves kept on growing and growing. I finished uni and I decided that I wanted to move to London. I didn’t have much clothes and of course I was not going to take any piece of furniture with me, so a suitcase was going to be enough in order to cross the ocean. But what about the books? Hundreds of unities, nearly a hundred kilos, lot of space. There was no way I could have brought them with me. I had to make a decision, and Kindle appeared into my thoughts.
Breaking up with paper books
Beforehand, I was a Kindle enemy. How am I going to read a book of it’s not actually a book? I can’t touch it, I can’t smell it, I can’t put it on my shelves. All the things I read are going to be gone forever, just stored in a piece of plastic with a screen in it. I won’t remember what I read. If someone were to come to visit me, we couldn’t have a chat about the books I’ve read while we navigate into my shelves. That’s awful! What are books for if not for having them, owning them, being able to access them anytime you want to?
Even though I had all those thoughts about buying a Kindle, I must admit I had no choice. Those books needed to stay in Argentina. Also, I didn’t know If I would have my own place in London. What if I needed to come back after a year or two? The same problem again? No, thanks. I started my research: prices, personal experiences, articles and videos. “Pros and cons of e-books”, “digital vs physical books”, and so on. After a while, I made up my mind mainly because I had no other option, not because I was fully convinced about it. I was going to sell all the books I had and I was going to buy a Kindle.
Well, I didn’t sell ALL the books I had. Some of them were personal and had had a huge impact in my life. The whole Harry Potter collection in English and in Spanish stayed with me, some books about my football team stayed with me, some amazing novels also stayed with me. Actually, they are all in Buenos Aires, but I’ll bring them with me sometime. For the time being, they still belong to me. “What about selling those in Argentina and getting the same ones here in London from another bookshop?”, you may think. I guess there’s no need to answer that…
The big sale began. Internet was my best and only ally here. I sold almost all of them and it did feel good, indeed. I met a lot of amazing people and I had really nice chats with some of them about the books they were about to buy. I also felt as if all my experiences and emotions that were involved in that book were somehow transmitted to the other person. That experience was completely full of joy. And I also made some money, which is always good.
When Kindle stole my heart
Next step: I needed to buy the Kindle. A relative of mine made a trip to the USA and bought one for me (they’re really expensive in Argentina). When I first had it in my hands I could feel like something nice was about to begin. “Ok, I’ve hated you so much but I’ve never actually met you, here’s your chance, don’t waste it”. I liked the way it looked, how light it was, the way the screen felt when I touched it with my fingers. The size was perfect, too. What was also amazing about it is that I could read without the necessity of having an external light. I could read in my room even if someone else wanted to sleep, I could read on a plane without bothering someone else, I could read at the park, in my living room, at work, in the middle of the dessert, in total darkness, wherever. I could also buy any book from any part of the world in any language at any time. That is, like it or not, such a totally amazing feature.
During the first months our relationship was extraordinary, like that first impulse you have when you meet someone new and every single piece of the world seems to fit perfectly. I read a lot of digital books, which were also cheaper than paper ones. I learnt not to care about having a book I’d read on my shelves. If I really learnt or liked something it will be in my mind forever. Everything was going really well between my Kindle and I. Before I came to London, I travelled quite a lot in my country from my city to Buenos Aires and I always carried different books with me, but actually it was just the Kindle, which was kind of small, light and practical. I got used to it, it got used to me. I could really enjoy reading e-books without knowing how far from the end of the book I was, because I should only focus on the page I was reading at the moment. Getting scare about the size of a book when about to buy it? Not anymore.
I brought it to London. As part of my everyday routine, I would set aside some time for reading. But I started to feel that I wasn’t enjoying it that much. Having a meeting with a screen wasn’t considered by my mind as a relaxing moment, and for me that’s what reading is most of the times meant to be. I wanted to end the books as soon as possible and the worst part was that, even though I had a beautiful relationship with my Kindle, I was just unable to make individual relationships with each book I read. Imagine reading different books, all with the some cover. You’re looking forward to get home, grab the book and just enjoy the moment, but you get there and see always the same black piece of plastic waiting for you. Disappointing, isn’t it? When I went to the park and I took my Kindle, things just didn’t fit. Other people were there with paper books, reading, enjoying the sun. I was trying to do the same, but I couldn’t. Some people have asked me to borrow them some books I’ve read and I just couldn’t cause I only had one piece of device. This was the end of it. I don’t blame the Kindle, I blame myself, so I knew I had to change something.
Here we go again…
Buying books again would have meant two things: spending more money and having to carry them with me in case I move. Then I thought a little bit deeper. Money is not an issue, I could save £3 or £4 in every single book, which is less than a paint of beer. That isn’t too bad. About the second topic, if I were to move, I would bring as much books as I can, and could sell the rest, give it to charity or whatever. I wouldn’t have had them with me if I had bought their electronic versions anyway, would I? Apart from these pros and cons, I really needed to read an actual book. It has been months since I haven’t had one in my hands. I could also make a mix: I read some physical books and them some electronic ones, depending on prices, availability, if was travelling, etc.
It was so exciting when I first when to the book shop after almost a year. Piles of books there waiting to be discovered. That smell, which I think was one of the things I missed the most. The people in there also looked nice to me, interested in the things they were looking at. Where shall I begin? I took my time in there. It was like discovering a new world again. It was simply great. Recommendation: even if you prefer reading e-books, go to the bookshop every now and then and get lost in that literary jungle, it’ll give you some fresh air.
I bought a book an it was mine. The book was actually mine. I got home and I started to read it. I couldn’t stop. Opening the book, feeling the cover, seeing its colour, smelling the pages, having to hold it with two hands, those are things I really missed. I could really feel that the things I was reading were getting into my head, they were part of me. The book lying on my nightstand looked astonishing, so pretty. When I had a conversation with someone and told them “this is the book I’m reading” while I was holding an actual and individual book I felt complete.
After I finished that book I bought another one, and another one and another one. Now it’s so hard to me to get back to the Kindle, which has been in my drawer for months. I may use it again every now and then for some book I can’t get, but it will never be the first option, not anymore. I would really recommend it to people who don’t care about paper books, people who travel a lot or don’t have enough space at home. I found it really useful when I needed it and it was a great solution for more of my problems. But I guess that, like with relationships with people, you have different needs at different stages of your life. When you finish one thing and you start another one, you do acknowledge all the good things you got for the previous one, but sometimes it’s just time to move on. After all, it’s like they say: you always go back to your first love.