My dad talks all the time about how I was reading before my 4th birthday, and that I would drive him crazy with what we now call Random Acts of Roadside Literacy. I read everything. EVERYTHING. Signs, billboards, labels, tags on pillows, anything and everything that had letters printed on it.
When I went to school, I’d get in trouble for trying to stay inside to read during recess. My school librarian was my best friend and when I got in trouble with my dad, he took my books away. Any other punishment had no effect on me, so he knew I’d pay attention if I had a few days without my “friends.”
Through junior high and high school, I spent all of my vacations, time on the bus before and after school, walking through the hallways between classes…all of my free time was spent reading and re-reading my favourite books, spending my entire allowance at used book stores to feed my habit.
The library was great, but when I lived in Montana, our library was only open a few days a week (and I volunteered there so that I had another excuse to spend all of my time with my nose in a book) and the closest DECENT library was over an hour away in another state.
For our first few years together, my husband knew that birthdays, Christmas and Just Because I Love You presents should be books. I didn’t want jewelry, flowers or chocolates, I wanted books.
Then I developed arthritis in my hands, and the eczema that had been mostly contained on my limbs spread to the backs of my hands and my fingers.
Suddenly, reading was no longer the escape it had been my entire life. Reading was uncomfortable and painful. It was difficult to hold a book open, I’d have to break the spine (!) to prop it open in front of me, and hope that I didn’t ruin the pages with my cracked fingers.
I kind of…I didn’t give up on reading, but I enjoyed it a lot less – and therefore didn’t read as much as I always had – for several years.
Then my dad got me an eReader as a gift. I kind of shrugged it off and in public was very grateful, but in my head made snobby comments about how nothing could replace real books. I read a book on it, then let the battery fully discharge and didn’t touch it for about six months.
Until my hands got particularly bad and I knew there was just no way I could force myself to even pick up a book, let alone turn the pages.
So I charged it, and checked out a bunch of books from my local library (without even leaving my house!). No longer did I have to worry about breaking the spine, or making my hands worse with paper cuts, all I needed was a free finger to tap and turn the page!
I still have that eReader (it’s hopelessly dated now, without wifi or anything else fancy – really, it’s just for reading) but my dad got me a new one THIS Christmas, so I passed that one on to my 13 year old. He loves it as much as I did, and it makes me smile to walk into his room and see him curled up reading. He announces when he finishes something, then starts his next book without even having to get up. 13 year old me is VERY jealous.
In answer to this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge, which asks if we prefer eBooks or Paperbacks, I have to say – I used to be a dead tree book snob, but even if I were to miraculously no longer have issues with my hands, I’d stick with digital. I realized that I love reading more than I love the books themselves, it’s the words that have the power for me, not the pages.