Often lost among all the ‘iPads mean that ebooks WIN!’ articles is the idea that for many of us, for the long foreseeable future, it is not an either/or scenario. Some books may be well-suited to e-reading, while others are (and will remain for various reasons) a better experience in print.
So with that said, what would the home of a tech-loving reader look like? Where do the books live? Where do the toys live? And what sorts of choices would such a person make over what to purchase for any given title?
I offer, as case study, my own humble abode. I live in a very expensive city and housing prices are unbelievable. I don’t have the space for a massive print library and I am, like many of my peers, a renter. I have had to move a lot, not always by my own choice, and every time I do I purge the print books. Ebooks have been a great thing for me! The apartment is a cookie-cutter one-bedroom, very typical of what you’ll find in my area.
THE BEDROOM: WHERE THE FANCY BOOKS LIVE
The bedroom has two book areas: a large bookcase in the corner which has my teaching books, files, and assorted books which don’t belong elsewhere, and two matching baby bookcases (sold as closet organizers originally, if I recall—and I do have three more IN the closet now that I think about it) serving as bedside tables. One of these has all my French pleasure books and the other has the feel-good books: poetry, self-helpy stuff and anything religion-related.
I don’t read most of these books very often, but when I want them, I am very glad to have them. Most of my personal French reading is done on the Kindle now because it has a built-in dictionary which is very handy. But I tutor and sometimes find myself trolling the shelves for stories and activities. And I do find poetry better suited for the printed page—I have to be in the mood, but when I am, it is something I enjoy a lot.
THE LIVING ROOM: WELLNESS CENTRAL
The wall of bookshelves leading into the living room store all my DVDs, as well as my cookbooks and fitness books. I vastly prefer print for cookbooks because they are fun books for browsing, and I need to see the whole page at once to properly follow directions. I also like the glossy books with pictures. I am not a natural cook and need the extra help.
The wooden screen you see in the picture is a cheap IKEA find purchased for a past apartment to conceal an awkwardly placed laundry area. It hides a large shoe organizer system where I stash all my workout gear—shoes, pedometer, exer-tubes, weighted gloves etc. Since my workout DVDS (and the tv/dvd player in which I use them) live nearby, I moved the fitness books in from the bedroom Nonfictionland awhile back to be with the rest of the fitnessy stuff. I don’t know why I keep buying workout books since I never use them—I prefer a dvd where I can follow along—but this sort of book seems to be my book-buying kyptonite and I buy them more often than I should.
The shelves were purchased for a previous apartment which was a basement and had very low ceilings. Now that I am out of the basement, I could handle a higher shelf but I am too cheap to buy them when the shelves I have are still perfectly functional. So for now, my choice has been ‘less stuff’ rather than ‘more shelving.’ But if I move again and have another spot where these could go to store other things, I would happily upgrade Wellness Central with more capacious shelves.
And yes, that is my Kindle you see on the couch!
KITCHEN AREA: OLD MEETS NEW
The one pet peeve I have with this apartment is its lack of space for a proper computer area. My previous apartment was about as big but had all sorts of little nooks and hideaways. This one does not, and I gave up the one hidden corner (where the screen is) to store my workout gear. So there is no place for the laptop to live except on the kitchen table.
My Macbook is home to my most important library of all—my Calibre library, now boasting 900-odd ebooks. I absolutely love my Macbook and Calibre and the whole ebook thing. I read a ton of fiction and used to get them from the library, or from the used book store up the street, where I could trade them back when space issues forced my hand. Now, I can have 900 books, and they don’t take up any precious space in my home! If you look at the photo, you’ll see that I set the Calibre window to cover flow view before I took the picture. I have saved searches so I can browse only finished books, only unread books or any of several other categories. It is just like browsing in a store or off a shelf and is a very pleasing user experience. The only difference is that now I can have 900 books! And they take up no space in my home!
The other distinguishing book-ish feature in this area is my new addition, the three gorgeous shadow boxes on the wall beside the window. They display a set of A.A. Milne books which belonged to my grandmother and which she used to read to me whenever I slept over. I had a very close relationship with her growing up, and when my grandfather recently told us grandkids that he’d like us to come and get anything from the house that we wanted before he started getting his affairs in order (he is 85) they were the first thing I thought of.
I wanted these books to be a memento of my special relationship with my grandmother and so I did not want them to just gather dust on a shelf somewhere. Someone suggested I post on a job board for students at a local art college, and I found a lovely young woman who understood just what I wanted. The glass cover protects the books, but also allows them to be removed if I want to, and the gilt-edged border frames the books nicely against a plushy blue background.
This was the first piece of ‘art’ I have done for myself—most of my other framed pictures are filler IKEA things or hand-me-downs from my mother. This was an expensive and perhaps extravagant undertaking for me. But now that I have them, I know it was worth it. Every time I see them hanging on the wall, I remember going to my grandmother’s house as a child and curling up together on the couch or in the bed or in the yard to share these books. I remember how as I got older, she would start to loan me the books she herself would read, always joking that I had to come back to visit again so I could return them. I remember what it felt like to be that loved, special person in her life. She is ailing now, and will not be with us for much longer. But I will always have that special relationship, and this memento of it just warms my heart.
As for the ebook thing, I think that if my apartment is any example, print and pixel can co-exist quite happily. And as for my grandmother, I think she would love that of all her belongings, this was what I asked for. And she would love too that I grew up to be a person with a thousand books in my house—-no matter what format those books were in!