I pride myself on the building pile of books in my room and on the bookshelves I fill over and over again. As cool as it looks, the aesthetic look of books is not the only reason why I collect them. I put the ones on my shelves or on my desk that I am reading at that moment, or hold such a special place in my heart that I can look at the cover and remind myself of the stories they told me.
I have always been an avid reader and I went through a phase, particularly in middle school, where I used a tablet for reading. I thought it made me so cool to whip out a Kindle in class and tap the screen to turn a page. I had hundreds of books on that virtual library and I sped through each one so quickly I barely registered what had happened until I was onto the sequel.
It wasn't until around my freshman year of high school when I decided to reread the entire Harry Potter series on the Kindle, that I realized that an eReader was convenient, but books were meant to be held in hand.
I started to reread the books I had spent hours reading on the Kindle, but this time, with its physical copy. I started to see more of the things that I missed, the little details and more minor character traits, and the story meant so much more to me when I could hold the entire thing in my hands. It was just so much more meaningful — to be able to hold a whole world, a whole experience, and the physical manifestation of a dream or idea in your hands.
At that point, I had decided to just start buying books that I had already read before, just to have them on hand and then to read them again in a different light when I had the time. It became an expensive hobby, much to my parents' dismay, but things like clothes, jewelry, and other items that any girl my age loved didn't appeal to me as much as an adventure between the pages of a leatherbound book did.
I will say that as a girl, I sometimes got lost in books and chose to forget about the world going on around me, and having an iPad or a Kindle made it so much easier to. But it made it so much easier to be distracted. Wherever I would go, I would have hundreds of books in my pocket, which was a blessing and a curse. I used to read three or four books at once, something I used to be proud of, but I have come to realize that not putting all my energy and attention into one book at a time is not giving it the read that it deserves. It was also depriving myself of the full experience that the author and story were trying to give me — and technology took all of it away under the guise of convenience.
For someone like my dad, who is on and off airplanes for work, an eReader has been a huge blessing, for traveling "lightly" can't really include an 800-page hardcover novel. But for a reading session in the sun, on a train, or sitting in bed on a rainy day, a book is priceless.
Books have grounded me in a way that nothing else can when I needed them: coming to college, an exhausting workday, or even after a break-up. To pick up and hold a copy of "Call of the Wild" by Jack London is bringing me back to my couch in sixth-grade, on a winter night. To pick up "The Sorcerer's Stone" is to hold the magic of my childhood in my hands. Now, "A Court of Thorns and Roses" by Sarah J. Maas is my connection to my sister, who lives a few states over from me now. They're also more than connections to the world around me: they are connections to the worlds inside the books themselves.
I can immerse myself in any of the books I have loved throughout my life and be there in that moment. They are not just an "escape," but some sort of "virtual reality" that I don't need fancy goggles or a screen for. When I read, I am there among the words. Among the characters and the places and the smells and the food. I am a part of that world for as long as I hold the book open in my hands.
Those words don't mean the same thing on a screen, though. The printed letters, the pages and the feel of the spine- they are what make the experience even more real to me.
Have you ever walked into a bookshop? A library? Hopefully, everyone has. Whether it be by choice or for school, everyone has been surrounded by books many times in their lives.
Have you ever walked into a room with hundreds of thousands of speakers and screens and smells and people? Some of us may say no but imagine if every book in that library or bookstore suddenly started whispering or shouting or acting our the words that they had scrawled inside of them. In a library or bookstore, people walk in and see stacks of paper enclosed by two covers.
It is interesting to imagine it in a different way: where hundreds of thousands of stories, some true and some the brain-child of writers, sit humming with the life of their authors.
Physical books are the vessels of these stories untold, and it is a pity that one can never know every story ever written or told. But it does not matter the quantity which someone reads, but the quality in which one reads just a few stories, and that is the gifts that physical books will never fail to give.