Using an e-reader doesn’t mean ditching the paperback

Laura Waddell, creator of #scottishebookday. Picture credit: Heather Pomphrett
Category: Reading

We invited the creator of #Scottishebookday (27 May 2015), Laura Waddell - @lauraewaddell, to share her journey of e-reader acceptance. 

Books have always been a part of my identity, and for a long time, that has been as physical a belief as my own body. I've curled myself around them between the bedcovers and we've gotten wet together, accidentally, in a bath.

Fetishising the paperback

Outside of critical essays, I've fetishised the feeling of the object as well as the meaning of the words: coveting covers, arranging them for photographs beside a cup of coffee and a pencil for annotations, or with a few deliberately chosen leaves whimsically dotted around to highlight the green in a dustjacket illustration. Words and paper; message and design; partnered pleasures. Books - they don't even have to be beautiful, as long as I can touch them. I embraced all the stereotypes and cringes of the book lover and rolled around in them.

What use had I the reader, the lover of running my fingers over embossed lettering and burning midnight candles, for an e-reader? Despite spending the rest of my time on computer or phone I turned my nose up at the idea of this bloodless slim plastic device. They're so often utilitarian off-black or grey. How could I get beautiful words from such a stone? They don't even have a smell. I even preemptively asked relatives to please not gift me an e-reader, fearful they'd confuse my love of reading with the hip and well-advertised new way to read.

I even preemptively asked relatives to please not gift me an e-reader

Resisting digital

I managed to steadfastly hold out for a long time, curmudgeonly digging my thumbs in, until the odd digital-only pamphlet or self-published poetry book by a friend made its way onto the reading app on my phone. Hmm. Okay. As long as there's no alternative. I tucked the app away in a folder, keeping it away from any clumsy taps, and used my phone to take photos of vintage book finds instead.

It was only very recently at the beginning of a long train journey I realised I'd left my current read at home. A paperback copy of Merryn Glover's A House Called Askival, bookmarked just at a good bit, that I'd spent the night before reading past my bedtime until I had fallen asleep. I wasn't in the mood to look out of the window at the too-familiar view or scroll through Twitter. I really wanted to sink into a story to pass the time. Could I? Should I?

Reader, I downloaded it.

Moving into the future

I not only started reading the e-book, but I enjoyed it. Since then, I've discovered what many of you know to be true already. It was convenient. It wasn't a replacement for a paperback, but a compliment. I finished the novel flipping back and forth between the two. Paperback in the bath and at bedtime, e-book on the bus or when my bag was already too full of work paraphernalia or a change of shoes to also cram in a thick hardback. Not only that, but nothing bad happened. I wasn't suddenly a different kind of reader. I didn't have to come out as an e-reader, or stop using my overflowing library of well curated paperbacks. One does not negate the other, or dilute the enjoyment. My identity as a reader is not sullied by the medium: there's room for all.

There's a wealth of new Scottish publishing which has only been possible because of digital availability. Out of print and forgotten classics have reemerged (such as The Palimpsest eClassics Collection), thanks to some exciting projects aiming to celebrate them anew. Networks of alt lit boundary breakers and self published authors have delivered their prose and poetry on their own terms. Small and newly established indie publishing houses have been able to take some risks on unknown literary and genre writers. Choosing to allow e-books into my life has widened, not dulled, my horizons.

Picture credit: Heather Pomphrett

Laura Waddell

Laura is a freelance digital marketing and PR strategist. Literary assistant of @sarasheridan. Writer. Interested in literature, arts, publishing, and equality. Creator of #ScottishEBookDay

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