Why I created a Digital Library

Created a digital library? What’s she talking about? We’ve been enjoying digital books for…well…years. Nothing new here. Jog on.

But, wait up.

It’s true. Digital libraries are both old hat and the latest fashion. Although I strongly suspect, given the choice, most of us would still prefer to read hard copies. E-readers neither offer that page-flipping rustle nor satisfying smell of fresh ink. Nor will they survive a dip in bubble bath or a spilled glass of wine. That said, I dream of opening a book with my name on the spine — not merely of switching it on.

Wouldn’t it be loverly?

One day, when we have peace on earth and no animal is abused or endangered, I would like to unpack my umpteen boxes of stored books and create a real library. The old-fashioned kind, entered through a double door, with soft, chandelier-lighting and floor to ceiling shelves built around a mullioned bay window overlooking the sea. The ladder will slide along a ridge several feet above my head. A spiral staircase will lead to the even higher balcony. And a cosy reading chair, within easy stretching distance of a coffee mug and salt-caramel chocolates, will lounge under a lamp by the log fire. Eliza Doolittle had the right idea. It would be more than loverly. It would be perfick.

My library will be an oasis of calm — far away from social media and all the other distracting buzzes and bleeps that announce notifications on my digital devices.

But in the meantime, there’s that not insignificant matter of space. And weight. (And I would like to say cost, but these days there is little difference in price. I think there should be a reduction for ebooks in lieu of costs for paper, distribution and shipping — but that’s a different blog. Maybe.) One baulks at paying for a larger storage facility when most books are available digitally. And why worry about weight allowance when I can throw a Kindle into my handbag and take along three thousand books?

But damnit, there’s another but here, too. Not everything I read is even a book. In addition to reading via the Kindle app, I subscribe to several magazines, such as Writer’s Digest, via the Zinio app. I read The New Yorker magazine via their own app. I listen to books via Audible. I use iBooks to access free Swedish classics from Literaturbanken.se, and have bookmarked numerous articles for future reading in my browser.

In short, I read on Kindle. And on my phone. And on my iPad. And on my Mac. And I hear the sounds of incoming emails, social media and news channels. And like every other modern-day Pavlov mongrel: I stop and check what’s going on.

And then I made a small discovery that caused me to pause.

Last autumn, I was reading A Writer’s Guide to Harry Potter and for the sake of easy searching decided to download a digital copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The illustrated version caught my eye. Too idle to run up two floors for my Kindle, I reached for my 13″ iPad. It’s cumbersome as a reading tool, but man! Not only were the pictures in brilliant colour, they moved! And in true Hogwarts’ fashion, ink spots appeared on pages as I read. (And no, nothing moves on the Kindle, at least not on the Oasis.) Ever suspicious of a catch, I tweeted Bloomsbury and asked whether the illustrated versions were abridged. No, they assured me, full text.

For the first time, I recognised a tiny benefit of encouraging kids to read on a screen. Readers will read, but moving illustrations may tip the balance for a reluctant novice.

And while rereading Harry Potter and wishing my 13″ was half its size and weight, I remembered mini iPads are roughly half the size and weight. And that a small e-reader that supports apps would be worth its weight and the investment.

I could collate all my digital books and reading/listening apps in one place. And if I kept social media apps and all notifications away from the device, I could create my own quiet digital library.

Lock Screen wallpaper

I’ve even found a cosy library picture to use as a lock screen wallpaper.

It may sound a tad luxurious to dedicate an expensive device to a reading library (and feel free to suggest android alternatives in the comments below), but the benefits of digital reading — in a switched-off environment, without interruptions and notifications, without the hassle of changing settings and messing with volume buttons — is worth considering. It’s going to take a little discipline to resist downloading a few games and music apps, but so far, so good. I’m enjoying knowing that I cannot be disturbed.

Until my ship comes in, I can read my digital library overlooking the sea. I can read it curled up by a fire.

And just to mess with my own head, I could even read it in a beautiful library. 😉

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