I suspect that many bibliophiles, myself included, have an imagined “dream library”.
I admit that I don’t know a lot of physical details about mine, although it is warm, comfortable, well-lit and airy. And it has a window seat.
My dream library as described in this blog is more about the contents of that library. And my dream contents have changed over the years as I have grown and changed and so has the publishing industry. Once, a computer would have been anathema, but any library of mine needs one now so that I can access my ebook library, show off pretty covers and transfer books to my Kindle or iPhone at the drop of a hat.
I admit, that as much as I love my paper books, these days I am primarily a reader of eBooks. Because of my CFS, I do a lot of my reading lying down and holding books and turning the pages are harder than they used to be. I also struggle with the text size in many books and how much of it is crowded onto a single page. With my Kindle, I’m in control of all that.
So while once, a mass market paperback was my ideal book format (small, cheap, fits in a handbag – and I have always chosen my handbags to be sure I can fit a book in them – and doesn’t take up too much shelf space), these days I’d be perfectly happy never to read one again. They used to be the best way to deliver content (ie the story) for me. Now, that’s my Kindle.
The word “book” is becoming something of a misnomer in the digital age. When we say “book”, do we mean the physical package that supplies the content to us, or do we mean the content itself. For me, many books are simply about the content, and for those I’m quite happy to own them in ebook format alone. I have the content and I can choose how my reading device displays it to me.
But sometimes, a book is also about the physical object. The books that are special, the ones we want physically one our shelves to look at and enjoy. As well as being about the content, they are also art in their own kind of way. And for those books, I want them both ways. I want the paper book – well-bound, with lovely (and matching across a series or even author) cover art, and I want it to be a hardcover or a well made trade paperback. Because for me, those are the formats that make me feel like my paper book collection is also an art collection that I can survey and stroke my fingers across and enjoy. But I also want the ebook, because in all honesty, that’s probably how I’m going read the content. With my nice, light, eInk, I’m-in-control eReader.
Some people say the growing popularity of ebooks are hurting authors, but I don’t see it that way myself. I’ll still buy your book at a reasonable, mass market paperback (or preferably a little less, I admit) price as an ebook. And if you’re one of my “collectible” authors, heck, I’ll buy it twice.
So, in my perfect if totally imaginary world, here’s the three main things I would want to build my dream library:
- An unlimited budget.
- Every single book available as a legal, well-formated, reasonably priced ebook.
- Hardcover or trade paperback editions (in matching sizes and with matching art) of my “collectible” books.
- A library that is large enough, airy and dry.
Sadly, in real life there are some issues with all those points:
- I most definitely don’t have an unlimited budget.
- Many books are not available as ebooks, and even when they are, both well-formatted and reasonably priced cannot be assumed.
- Books come out as they come out; cover art changes, formats change, publishers change, sometimes I have to buy second-hand. In real life, a library is a mish-mash.
- Our house is old, it’s damp and the only space for a library is the basement/rumpus room. And it’s damp. My books are beginning to get musty, which makes me immensely sad. The only way to fix it would be to move, and that is not a current option.
But this is a dream library I’m talking about. So I shall imagine, and when I find something that belongs in it, I shall share it here.