Recently I was helping my aunt move furniture into a new home from the one my father’s family had grown up in. While taking a break, I was given the opportunity to take some of my grandmother’s possessions home with me if I wanted. My grandmother passed away when I was in college, but for the majority of my life she suffered severely from Alzheimer’s, so by the time I was old enough to interact with her, it was too late to truly get to know anything about her life. Family has always been important to me but with all of my grandparents passing away when I was very young, it’s been difficult to discover our family roots. I’ve longed to know not just who my grandparents were, but also what their interests were — what made them tick.
It’s because of this that going through my grandmother’s things was so moving. Having an affinity for reading, I wanted to take some of the books she had read when she was growing up. One thing I did know was that Grandma Lillian also loved to read. I was excited to see what dusty treasures I might find in her small collection. I’ve always loved Russian literature and so it took my breath away when I came across tattered copies of Anna Karenina, War and Peace and collections of plays by Chekov and Ibsen. Suddenly I had a connection with my grandmother I never knew existed. Despite never getting to talk about literature, never getting to hear even a single book recommendation, I had come to love Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Ibsen just as she had.
When I got home, I sat down on my couch and couldn’t put down these new heirlooms. It was so moving to think that these books, simple pages of ink and words, were held by my grandmother. I got the urge to reread A Doll’s House but as my new copy was over 100 years old, I hesitated to leaf through it, fearful it would come apart in my hands. Instead, I grabbed my iPad and went to my local library’s digital collection and sure enough, there it was. With my grandmother’s copy looking down on me, safely nestled on our bookshelf, I began to read the digital copy. The same words Lillian had read so long ago. The only difference is this ink will never fade, these pages will never tear.
People love to write flashy headlines about why eBooks will never beat out physical copies or how eBooks will lead to the end of the paper book. Neither of these types of articles are true. Physical and digital books coexist beautifully and this is a perfect example. The physical books I now cherish are a connection to the grandmother I barely knew. It’s something I can hold in my hand that she did as well. The eBooks of these titles hold special meaning because anywhere I go in the world now I can bring with me the stories my grandmother loved that I do too, without ruining a century’s worth of memories by ripping a page. Books have the power to move us, to connect us in ways we never thought possible. The format is inconsequential, it’s the stories that truly matter.
Adam Sockel is a Marketing Specialist at OverDrive.