Library of a global nomad by Karen Lord
I inherited a love of travel from my father and a love of books from my mother, and it has been a challenge trying to balance the two. Books accumulate, and when they accumulate while I am away from home, I have a problem. They are heavy, shipping is costly, and you can only fit so many books into a suitcase before it becomes a health and safety issue for both you and the luggage handlers.
I tried to save the best, of course. Each time I went home I’d leave a few behind, even if that meant I wouldn’t see them for a year. I bought second hand books, reasoning that it would be less painful to give those up, but that ploy failed when I became emotionally attached to the familiar old covers of earlier editions. Some of the best could not be saved; textbooks trump fiction when choosing which doorstopper to transport. And some, best or not, I still gave away when I got home . . . say book three to a friend who had books one, two and four of a series (those were the days before the broad choice of online bookstores).
I dreamed of ebooks. I discovered Project Gutenberg, read texts on my Tungsten and imagined the day when I would be able to hold entire libraries of leisure reading, textbooks and research papers on a light, sturdy, paperback-sized screen. Of course I prefer ‘the real thing’. I have my page-flipping search technique down to a fine art and shun the common bookmark (real or virtual). Furthermore, I am a vigorous reader. I do not sit posed and polite with the book held gently open to preserve the spine from breaking. I roll on the floor with books. I eat with a book in one hand. I take books to places with water, sand and grit, places inimical to the delicate structures of electronic devices. But I will never be rich enough to afford to travel with a proper collection of deadtree books.
Things are improving—e-readers, formats and availability of titles—but my dream has adjusted slightly. I want both. I want a publisher to give me, the reader, a reasonable print and e-book package, the real and the virtual together. Imagine the possibilities! I could buy a e-book to read while in London and have the print version sent home for my library in Barbados. I could arrange for the book to be shipped to a friend, or to an after-school reading club. In fact, why don’t publishers adopt some literary charitable concern or outreach programme and encourage me to buy a package with the option to donate the print or audiobook portion towards the indoctrination of a new generation of literati?
I don’t know how this post went from book nostalgia to world domination, but there it is. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to research e-readers and bookcase design and create a plan of action and a timeline for making my dream come true.