We’ve given up a lot over the course of this pandemic. By now we’re all, to some degree, shaggy-haired, raggedy-fingernailed, sweatpants-wearing, hug-starved home bakers whose sole social interactions have been virtual, grocery related, or predicated on how many neighbours can be talked into allowing their dogs to be petted at the end of a two-metre leash. (Or … just me? You know what? Don’t tell me.)
One of the things I most look forward to doing as the country starts to open back up is visiting the bookstores and browsing for new literary treasures to add to my shelves. There’s something about seeing row upon row of carefully organized spines, in every hue, marching down the shelves, straight as soldiers, full of adventure and derring-do. I love standing back, head cocked to the side, my eyes gliding over names both familiar and unfamiliar. Pulling out an eye-catching tome, reading the back cover, flipping through a page or two. There’s always a tough decision—which to buy, which to put pack for next time—soon followed by a burst of readerly anticipation as soon as I’ve made my purchase. No matter how many books I have on my shelves (and I have a lot of books on a lot of shelves), I still get hit by that same wave of commercial joy each and every time I bring a new tome home.
So what’s a porcupette to do, bereft of such a thrill?
Well, I’ve turned to ebooks, temporarily. My library card is getting a workout, and I’ve enjoyed browsing through the library’s ebook holdings—a little too much, it must be said. I currently have a whopping seventy items on my “saved” list. (I am both ashamed and bizarrely proud.)
Though for now, at least, I’ve replaced my in-store browsing with its digital equivalent, I find it’s not quite a satisfying swap. I can scroll through endless book covers on my phone, on the couch, in comfy clothes, whenever I want. Sometimes I open my e-reading app with the intention to browse rather than read! But I never reach the end of any given list, and I don’t know what gems are hiding beyond the first several pages of new acquisitions. I never get the feeling of having surveyed—even cursorily—the offerings. I always leave feeling like I’ve missed something.
I’ve also learned I easily get bogged down by far too many choices. Without the all-important step of flipping through pages and making my decision on what to purchase—indeed, without the need to make a purchase at all—it’s hard to discard anything to narrow down what I really want to read, or what I really want to make space for on my bookshelf. Of course, the upside is that I’ve read a few books recently that I would never have purchased. It’s nice to expand my literary horizons, and I can foresee me doing a lot more of this sort of “trying” books and authors that I’m not sure about buying in the future.
Despite easy access to ebooks at all times, I’m still hard-wired to covet print editions. There are at least a couple of books that I’ve read over the last few months in ebook form that I have earmarked for print purchase. I can’t help myself. In the end, I suppose my feelings about virtual browsing are somewhat similar to my feelings about virtual hugs—they’ll do in a pinch, but they’ll never supplant the physical reality!
Thank you, as always, for stopping by to read my bookish blather. Have you been missing your own book browsing habits? Are you happy browsing digitally for now? Leave a comment and let us know how you’re faring.