Digital vs. Hardcover—A Booklover’s Dilemma

Hardcover wins in my book every day (pun intended)!

I’ve been on a quest to read all the classics and there are still so many I haven’t read. What is it about books? I love old bookstores and could spend hours perusing the isles. When I was a young girl, I must have read The Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder about a thousand times. It’s a story of a little girl who discovers a wonderful velvet room that becomes a place to read and dream, a place to bury one’s fears and doubts, a place to count on. It still sits on my shelf with its tattered edges and dog-eared pages.

In these days of people needing to “declutter” their homes, it seems more and more people are opting for reading books via Kindle or some other digital device rather than a physical book. A friend recently told me she would not buy any more books for that very reason.

Clutter? Books are not clutter to me. Books are sacred! I love everything about them their smell, their touch, turning a page.

Recently I was lucky enough to acquire a beautiful 3-set of someone’s cast-off hardcover copies of Ernest Hemingway’s; The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, and For Whom the Bell Tolls. The only thing I’d ever read of Hemmingway’s was The Old Man and The Sea, as part of a required high school assignment, and I unwillingly trudged through the book telling myself I hated Hemingway’s work and never again glanced at one of his books. But that was then.

Now I greedily accepted these blue bound, gold embossed beauties reprinted in 1954, envisioning them proudly perched on the top shelf of my built-in bookcase along with all my other hardcover books.

Thinking them almost a status symbol, they remained on my shelf untouched, unread for almost a solid year until one day I noticed them again. It was as though they gleamed from their perch beckoning me to pull them out. And so, I did. One after the other I gobbled them up. I was amazed at Hemingway’s simplistic yet incredibly complex writing style. How does he do it? He is a master with dialogue—like nothing I’ve ever read. How have I evaded these works my entire life based on the opinion of a petulant teenager? I’ve always loved Charles Dickens and have read many of his books, having inherited an absolutely gorgeous collection of mini leather-bound editions that none of my other family members wanted. But those too remain mostly untouched behind my glass-encased shrine of other untouchable books. I haven’t the heart to desecrate them with my oily fingers and only pull them down occasionally to take in their scent, and ever so gently turn a few pages.

I can’t fathom reading any book on a digital device. To me, it seems sacrilegious. I will never think of books as clutter. Physical books are what feed not only my mind, but my soul.


Dorothy Preston
Dorothy Preston
Dorothy Preston has a degree in Communications/Media and has worked in the publishing industry for over twenty years. She is also an avid reader and an insatiable seeker of truth and spirituality. It took many years and many tears to finally realize that true happiness can only come from within. Dorothy has lived in Maine, New Hampshire, and New York, but is currently settled in her native state of Massachusetts just outside of Boston. She and her husband recently purchased land in what is commonly referred to as Down East Maine, and are planning on settling there in the next few years. Dorothy’s debut memoir, Getting Off the Radiator: A Story of Shame, Guilt, and Forgiveness, was just published. It is Dorothy’s hope that she can share her journey with those having gone through similar ordeals so they might learn that forgiveness truly is divine, and along with it comes peace.

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  1. I’m such a mixed reader. I oscillate quite regularly between my Kindle and actual books. I recently reread “The Cather in the Rye” and had a similar experience as you describe. I couldn’t stand this book as a teen when assigned to read it. But as an adult I was captivated! Being in the mind of a young man without a fully developed frontal lobe – what a strange treat!

    I also chuckled when I read this piece as I am currently reading your amazing memoir on my Kindle! I didn’t want to wait for it to come in the mail as I was leaving for vacation, so I went the quick route! Another plus for me on the Kindle is that if I have a child snuggling me, I can still read in the dark. But there is something quite intoxicating about smelling the pages and creasing the corners of a physical book.

    Thanks for the piece! It was a good reflection for a Monday morning. 🙂

  2. Dorothy – A great bit of writing. I swear, we are kindred spirits. And the books for me have to be hardbound. I will willingly spend more to get the hardbound version vs the paperback.

    As COVID restrictions temporarily eased here in NYC, I was able to finally venture to Chartwell Booksellers, the only bookstore in the world devoted to Winston Churchill. As bookstores go, it’s tiny, but it’s a beautiful place. It contains copies of all 40ish books he wrote – he actually won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1953 – as well as copies of every book ever written about him. Many of the books are locked away in glass cases, but as I looked at them, I swear I could smell his ever-present cigar and hear him jokingly hiss, “Well, don’t just stand there! Read me!”

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