When it’s possible to enjoy both ebooks and real books (and libraries for both!)

In my first year of college in Chicago, I fell madly in love with the main Chicago Public Library.

It’s huge and amazing and I just loved entering. It’s got gorgeous architecture, and it always felt like a shame that the North side of the building was flush against the elevated tracks of the Brown line. (In a contradiction I had no problems with, I did not think it was a shame that I could take the Brown line and be immediately outside the building.)

Public Library and State Street at night, Chicago, IL, US

Public Library and State Street at night, Chicago, IL, US [© Oleksandr Dibrova / Dollar Photo Club]


(Ok, really, being in love with the library was hardly a new thing in my life. But there had never been one this pretty before.)

Unfortunately, I was in school and I didn’t have as much time for reading-for-me as I would have liked—and I wasn’t making the time either. I was actually in a bit of a silly  reading drought brought on by a critical misunderstanding of what sort of books I was “supposed” to read now that I wasn’t of YA age [answer: it doesn’t have to be all classics (and classics don’t have to be Jane Austen!)!] But somewhere in there, in the midst of the bits of reading I was doing, I discovered how to use Overdrive for Kindle. [I can borrow books from the library to my Kindle? Whaaaat?] It is quite possibly my favorite discovery of the past 24 years. Even with only reading a handful of books a year, and still visiting the CPL for stacks of books that would likely become did-not-finish books, most of my reading switched over to Kindle.

Once I remembered how much I liked reading voraciously (finding new genres helped a lot) and ended my drought, I was a total Kindle junkie. Of course! Overdrive was free and took much less effort than multiple trips into the Loop, and in a tiny dorm room there simply wasn’t space for many paperbacks.

But, after graduating, there was space in an actual apartment.

Conveniently (inconveniently), I work just two blocks from a fabulous used bookstore, Open Books*. One of the greatest (worst) things about OB is how well they’ve uilize their giant windows for displays: over the past two years I’ve probably gone in a dozen times to buy something I saw in the window walking by on the way home.

I started accumulating.

And because I was buying physcial books, I knew I should probably re-learn how to read them. Which may sound silly, but I was so deep in an ebook groove that it has taken some intentional effot: remembering to take them with me, reading at home more, not minding the weight, not minding only having one book in my hands at a time.

I still finish my ebooks much faster, but the gap is slowly closing.

Yet even though I graduated a almost two years ago now, I’ve never taken advantage of the library two blocks from my first apartment, or, now, the one that’s a fifteen/twenty minute walk away.

But I should, right? I feel like I’m missing something in my life, with the only library I frequent being a webpage. Now that I’ve been pushing myself to put down my Kindle more and pick up hard copies instead, shouldn’t I be using the library?

This is a complicated question, which involves mentoning the dozen unread books already in my own used bookstore apartment.


But libraries!

Hopefully I’ll give in soon—and fall in love again.

How does everyone else manage reading from so many different sources—digital and physical, puchasing and borrowing? Do you organize or prioritize somehow, or just read whatever suits you at the time?


*Open Books is moving quite a bit further away, and it is possibly the worst thing ever. My budget disagrees.

8 thoughts on “When it’s possible to enjoy both ebooks and real books (and libraries for both!)

  1. I had a Nook, and it was nice. But I have been loving buying books again. I didn’t read the last books I checked out of the library…and now I have fines! I feel so bad. Making time to read can be hard when you get out of the habit.

    Also, totally share your love of libraries. They’re magic.


  2. Chicago is wonderful and amazing– and yes, Harold Washington is lovely and one of my favourite places in Chicago to just hide out for a couple hours and read. (I took my boyfriend to it on a trip back, and he absolutely loved it.) But there is definitely room for both. While my brother and I err on the side of being book buyers who avidly practice tsundoku (the Japanese word for buying books and not reading them)– there is something about the library that gets me every time I come back. Maybe it’s because it’s a place to read a book I want to try out, but am wary of buying. Or maybe it’s the comfort of knowing that it’s THERE. Not sure either way, but I think it’s possible to love both. Especially if they’re as beautiful as the Harold Washington in Chicago ;) I’ll miss that library forever. (They also throw AMAZING events with various authors. Wait till Printer’s Row Fest. You’ll have a field day.)


    • Oh I love that there is a word for it. Tsundoku. That’s magical.

      I will definitely look into the Printer’s Row Fest. I think I’ve heard of it, but have never known enough to consider going.

      Do you live elsewhere now?


      • Yes! I lived in Chicago for a couple years for undergraduate, and then recently moved to the Bay Area. I miss it dearly, but I just moved to a new spot in the Bay Area. (I originally lived in Oakland, and now I live in San Francisco.) So I’m pretty happy here :)

        As for Printer’s Row– it’s HUGE. You should definitely go, see some events and have fun :) Levar Burton (Reading Rainbow!) will be there this year, and it sounds amazing.


  3. Supposedly you use a different part of your brain when reading a physical instead of a kindle. Something about the tactile cone too between your hands and your brain. I have also been terrible about readING books. It was so much easier when YA books were still appropriate. Now I just walk into a book store and check out what’s on the bestseller list. That or I will ask friends.

    The CPL looks absolutely beautiful! I like going to the grand library in Los angeles, but it is so difficult to get to since there is no parking and the train is so far from the building. I need to make more trips!


    • That’s super interesting. I wonder how that works, since I hold both things? I might have to google that myself.

      YA can still be appropriate! I like to intersperse it between other things, but sometimes you just really need some good YA. I’ve got Sarah Dessen’s new book, Saint Anything, on my Kindle right now waiting for me :)


  4. Hey Jenna,

    Oh my days that library looks amazing!!

    I have defo got out of the habit of reading which makes me very sad :( I actually went to a second hand book shop and bought a couple of books but I haven’t had the chance to read them yet.
    I haven’t got a kindle yet. I am still on the fence if I would like one…I tried using my mums. It was odd but I think I will always prefer a hardback but a kindle on holiday sounds a lot better!

    What are you reading just now? I am always open to hear what other people are reading :)



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