The Reading Life of a Virtual Shoplifter

by Kellyann Zuzulo

I will claim the unprovable distinction of being among the first wave of ebook advocates some seven years ago. I was fascinated by the concept that you could buy and download books to your computer (yes, the computer- told you I was "early days"). Could read them right there on your monitor. Could store dozens of tomes in a flat, giga space. Then when ereaders started shaking up the bookshelves, I was right there. Bought myself the first generation of Kindle and, later, stood in a virtual line to spark up the first Kindle Fire.
      Many were the discussions/confrontations with die-hard paper book readers who'd look at me askance and say, "I need to feel the book in my hands; to turn the pages; to smell the paper." And the divide between page-turner and downloader seemed to grow wider.  But there most definitely is a margin for harmony.
     Yes, I download many of the books I read, but I will never stop reading paper books. I rarely pass a bookstore without walking in and buying something, even if it's a little notepad for errant character traits that pop to mind for my latest villain or protagonist. But I also love bookstores for the suggestions they give me for the books I will download. Yes, I'm a virtual shoplifter.

Case-in-point: This week, I'm with the family out on the North Fork of Long Island at my in-law's beach cottage. Much to my surprise and pleasure, there's a branch of the famous BookHampton independent book store now in Mattituck. Of course I went in...four children in tow. And there's the first reason to continue buying paper books. A children's book from a bookstore or library is almost always better than an ebook. My daughter has a Kindle but it's not always the same. Not yet. Technology may catch up, and the Nook for interactive children's books seems to making a good stand. But in the store, the kids spread out, picked up books, flipped through pages, and made their selections.
     Meanwhile, I scoured the shelves for a book gift for my mother-in-law, who is an avid reader. She mostly enjoys non-fiction, such as biographies and histories. And those are the other types of books that are many times better page-by-page rather than byte-by-byte. I picked up a copy of Robert Hughes' "American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America." Because you just can't do 634 glossy pages with pictures and appendices as well in a flat tablet.
     The visual download of walking into a bookstore is astounding. The color jolt, the hand-written recommendations, and the tactile sensation of picking up the books cannot be surpassed by browsing the bookstore online. There were so many good-looking books. I couldn't buy them all. But I want to read them all. What do I do? I virtually steal them. I review the bookstore "favorites," I pick up the books, I read the flaps, and I jot down titles in my phone. Yes, I will buy a book that captures me, but probably not at the bookstore. The author will still make a sale, but the bookstore won't. I hope the virtual police don't catch up to me. I always buy something at the store when I've "lifted" books to add to my TBR pile. And as part of my community service, I will suggest why you should always visit a bricks-and-mortar bookstore.

  • Children's books...especially those they pick out themselves.
  • Coffeetable books or photo-rich bios and histories.
  • Gifts for mothers-in-law
  • Bestsellers for beach reading, especially if you have a Kindle Fire or iPhone for reading. You just cannot see that screen in the sun.
  • Cookbooks, like the Martha Stewart's Cupcakes volume that my 12-year-old just "had" to have.
  • Travel Books
  • How-to Books
  • Author readings
  • Author-signed books (until they figure out a way to sign my ebooks, I will still buy the book at the reading.)

Any others?
Support your local bookstores! : D
Support Authors!
Best Wishes,
Kellyann Zuzulo
What Would You Wish For?


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