The Case for Paperbacks

My bookshelf

My house is literally full of books. Books I’ve collected since I was a child [I still have a ragged Barney Beagle] to books I purchased just this week. If you’re like me, your kindle is also burgeoning with books. I have over 5000 at last count.

My friends tell me to declutter and sometimes, I have rather reluctantly said goodbye to many of my books (sniff, sob, I still mourn them). After all, why hold onto the paper or hardback when I can simply download an ebook to my ereader?

The answer is simple. With 5000+ books in my kindle library, I’m constantly forgetting I have a book. How many of you have gone to a book page, hit “purchase” only to have Amazon tell you you already have the book? Thank goodness Amazon does this, but that doesn’t count the books I have on Nook and Google Play, not to mention borrowed from Scribd or Overdrive.

So the other day, I got to thinking, and maybe it’s a dangerous thing since I’m supposed to be decluttering so that when my husband retires we can move… Books that I have in paper form are like friends I see in person, my neighbors, my cousins, my relatives, and my old school friends who live within fifty miles of me. Books I have on kindle are like social media friends. And while I love my social media friends, they don’t occupy the mind space and physical space as people I get together for coffee, walks, and parties.

It’s the same with ebooks. Now, don’t kill me here. I love ebooks. I love the convenience, the ability to have thousands in my account and countless more available at any time or any place. But I don’t “bump” into them the way I do with my paperbacks. They don’t bring back memories, and I don’t pick them up and flip to a bookmark or a crease in the spine or discover a long-forgotten sticky note or bookmark, and they definitely don’t transport me back to when we first met.

Paper books, meanwhile, are like old friends. A couple weeks back, in the throes of decluttering, I kept putting a set of books into a box, then taking them back out and reshelving them, then trying to resolve to give them away. I made excuses for them. They’re yellowed and wrinkled, no one would want them, and I can’t bear to throw them in the garbage. But they’re taking up space! Logically, all these books exist as ebooks. I can simply do as Marie Kondo says: to discard them, knowing that if I ever wanted to read them again, I can buy the ebook or the audiobook.

BUT… here is the big question. Will I remember them?

This particular set of cozy mysteries was written by Carolyn Hart. While flipping through these yellowed paperbacks, I was transported back to my younger days, scouring bookstores to buy her latest Death on Demand mystery. I’ve quite forgotten Max and Annie throughout the years as my reading tastes diverged to romance and suspense thrillers. But because I could not throw away that set of books, I am now reliving the 1980’s by re-reading my Death on Demand stories. I’ve even downloaded the audiobook so I can have it read to me–the font on the old paperback being kind of small for my senior eyes. I’ve rediscovered that series and was so pleased to discover that it is STILL GOING after all these years.

It’s all because I had the paperbacks. A paperback from 30 years ago can remind you of an author you loved and lost touch with. A paperback is like a loyal friend sitting on the shelf winking at you when you walk by, and a paperback is something you can pass on to others. As an author, a paperback is a living reminder to your readers about you. Who knows? Twenty years from now, the reader you have now might rediscover you and be joyously surprised that your series is still going on. Or your paperback has been passed from friend to friend, making you new friends to the farthest corners of the earth.

Now that, is like having a friend for life!

p.s. I have the black covered collector’s hardbacks of the Agatha Christie mystery library [a subscription series] and I’m NOT parting with them. Besides, my daughter has tagged them all already. Agatha is a friend for life and beyond.

What do you think? Do you buy paperbacks of the books and authors you like? Do you keep every autographed paperback of your writer friends? [I do]. Or do you let them go to share and spread the joy?

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