Paper Books – A Thing of the Past?

I’m off to our library today. My daughter’s key chain collection was featured in the glass showcases for October. Our library’s a treasured place, and for a small town, it’s a great meeting place full of books, activities, and museum-worthy treasures in cases illustrating the town’s history. Our townspeople are very proud of it. Stepping inside, I’m reminded of how reading has shaped who I am and where I’ve been.

Our library encourages residents to share with one another. My daughter’s key chain collection was featured in the Children’s Section recently.

As a child, Momma shared with me the only physical thing left from her childhood – a set of “Childcraft” books. If you aren’t familiar with them, they were encyclopedia –type books for children, first printed in the 1930’s. Each volume had a different theme, like poetry or art. Momma’s set were from 1942, hardbound in pumpkin-colored covers. Inside were magical stories and whimsical drawings. On the inside covers of Momma’s set were pencil drawings of princesses in fancy gowns – proof my mother was once a little girl, too – a shocking concept to my preschool self! She’d lie on the cool kitchen floor while her mom baked, and read for hours. With those books, I’d do the same. My favorite was Poems of Early Childhood, with its poetry and vintage ink illustrations. When thunderstorms struck, and I couldn’t sleep, Momma would remind me of the poem about two Guardian Angels that would watch over sleeping children at night. The illustration shows a child in her bed, with two stunning, glamorous angels with giant wings (one looks like Yvonne de Carlo), sweetly keeping watch and tucking up the blankets. Through the years, that poem came to mind when my daughter would wake at night. I wished I could read it to her, and show her the picture. Momma’s books were unfortunately lost in a move over two decades ago. I tried once to purchase another set on EBay. Unfortunately, they were the 1949 set…not the same as the ones I‘d loved as a child.

I’d forgotten about it, until one day when our library hosted its annual fundraising book sale. There on one of the tables, was one volume of an old “Childcraft” set. I realized it was the book of poems. Picking it up, I checked the printing date: 1942, the same year as my mother’s! (Wish I could say it was the book we had with Momma’s childhood scribbles, but it isn’t. I’ve enjoyed sharing it with my daughter, nonetheless).

Other beloved books include the Little House on the Prairie series. I spent many hours as a kid pretending to be Laura Ingalls! I can’t wait to share those with my daughter; she’s now the right the age.

It’s always fun to read with a buddy!

Raised to treat books with care, I remember my Daddy’s book collection, most of them on nature. He would make his own neat dust covers to keep them nice. As a child, I could read them, as long as I was careful. Visiting Daddy last summer, I smiled when I saw he’s still got those books, with their neat little covers, in his office.

Do you have sentimental books? In my daughter’s bookcase is copy of The Little Engine that Could. My dad gave it to her when she was two, a reprinting of the original enjoyed by children in our family for generations. I was once able to get her favorite storybook, Jamberry, by Bruce Degan, autographed and she has a few autographed Tractor Mac books from meeting Billy Steers at the Bridgewater County Fair. I hope she shares these with her children someday.

Once, for our anniversary, my husband and I went to the Ridgefield Playhouse for a movie screening starring Christopher Plummer. For the price of a movie ticket, we saw the film, had a question and answer session, and book signing with the acting legend. We don’t always celebrate our anniversary, but that was a memorable one.

9/26/2009: The talented Mr. Christopher Plummer signing a book for me.  He gave me permission to snap his photo, was ever so charming, and has the most piercing blue eyes I have ever seen.

Favorite books are like dear friends. The Delaney Sisters’ Book of Everyday Wisdom with Amy Hill Hearth published in 1994 is full of practical advice and smart musings from two sisters who lived to be over 100 years old. It’s an inspiration to live simpler. I reread it each year. Erma Bombeck was one of the funniest and most honest authors ever! Need to laugh? Her writing is still as refreshing as iced tea in summer. Of course, MaryJane’s Ideabook, Lifebook, Cookbook is a most special, life-changing, dear-to-my-heart book. I love everything about it…the pictures, advice, crafts, and recipes. I also collect vintage cookbooks.

Some favorite sentimental books with sentimental photos…

“Paperless” books we now have are convenient, and green. I’ve used the application myself, when I was a member of a book club. Yet, I still love a good, old-fashioned book. If all books become “virtual”, won’t you miss the smell of a book, the excitement of an autographed copy, and the ability to share a treasured book with friends and family? What do you think? What books are close to your heart? Leave me a comment and let me know!

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  1. CC says:

    Oh my dilemma! we have a Kindle & use it as our library now allows for check out of digital books … but like you, I love having the books to physically touch and lovingly turn the pages! It’s much easier to carry multiples of books on the Kindle (waiting at the dentist or doctors office – don’t have to resort to 2 year old germy magazines, or traveling – this weighs so much less! I have a small library with me this way) — but put me outside in my porch swing and I want to hold a book .. and I want to give my favorites to new moms to start their child’s library and I never have to worry about electricity or battery life when I have a real book.

    CC, isn’t that true?  Valid points, for sure.  Thanks for reading! -Nicole

  2. Donna says:

    I will never give up paper books! They are like friends.
    Books are cherished by me and I want to share that love with friends and family.
    I may request a copy of Jane Eyre be placed inside my casket when I die!

    Donna, love it!  Thanks for commenting!  -Nicole

  3. Lisa Holderman says:

    Hi Nicole,
    My mother and I have pondered this together many times and we both agree that while the other is convenient there are MANY more reasons to go with paper books. For one, the technology won’t change, like we have seen with music and movies. That keeps things simpler. Another reason is that paper books can be handed down from generation to generation and friend to friend. (My mom always writes in her books the date she reads it and a little note on how she felt after she read it. We both find ourselves re-reading books and strangely enough when we go to record the date it is very close to the time we read it last.) It is true that e-books are probably more green than paper, BUT many of our books are being published on recycled paper and when technology changes where do all those handy devices end up? The enviornmentalist in me appreciates and loves knowing that my books will be recycled…one way or another. Plus paper books help us to be social…we go to the library and bookstores and meet up with others we know. In a world where technology seems to make us more and more anti-social and non-communicative, paper books can actually bring people together. So, I for one, hope and pray that the paper book never goes away. I love to feel it in my hand, I love how they look in my bookcase and love sharing them with family and friends. Long live paper!

    Lisa, Nicely put.  Isn’t that the truth?  Also, if you drop a book…nothing happens! -Nicole

  4. Rebecca says:

    As always, I really enjoyed your column today.

    I have gone back and forth with the idea of virtual books versus "real book". It might be nice as a convenience or saving space on a vacation but I don’t think I could ever give up "real book". I do love the feel of a good book.

    I still have the Little House Series collection from when my kids were young. In 2012 I will be a grandmother for the first time, actually twice since both of my son’s wives are pregnant and due about six weeks apart (this should be fun). I can’t wait to read the Little House books to my grandchildren when they are old enough. I can’t imagine reading it to them from an electronic reader.

    Thanks again for a wonderful column as usual.

    Rebecca, CONGRATULATIONS!  So exciting that you have grandbabies on the way.  Thank you  for reading.  I share your feeling – it’s not the same to read to a little one with an electronic book, handy or not.  – Nicole

  5. Denise Krawiec says:

    The new paperless books make me sad, I enjoy holding a book,turning the pages and curling up with a glass of lemonaide in the summer or a cup of tea in the winter.I too have childhood favs:The Littlehouse Books,Seasore Summer,The Five Little Peppers That Grew,The Street Sparrows. Also, nowadays,anything by Maeve Binchy.I feel bad for todays kids,I feel like some of them won’t know the joy of holding a book for fun. As for me, I’m gonna’go read!

    Denise, I will look into your suggestions.  Thanks!  -Nicole

  6. April says:

    Perish the thought! (I’m always so comforted that in the Star Trek future, Captain Picard was often seen relaxing with an old, leatherbound book.) I still love to give and get books as gifts, a much more delectable process with something that can be wrapped. I was very slow climbing onto the e-reader bandwagon, and while I love my Nook, I will never part with the old friends lining my bookshelves. Electronic formats come and go, but print is eternal. I hope. (Austen, Alcott and Montgomery are very close to my heart, as are the "Little House" books which seem to not be digitized yet.)

    April, thank you for reading.  I’m smiling at the Captain Picard mention!  -Nicole

  7. Patricia says:

    The "Little House Books" of course, I read them to all 7 of my children. Gone with the wind is a treasured book, as a child I enjoyed "Blueberry Summer" also most mysteries (as a child and now as an adult). To me you can’t cuddle up with a good nook, a hot cup of tea and a good nook??? I’ll stick with "real" books as long as I’m able to obtain them. I’ve written you several times before, I enjoy your posts. Thank you.

    Patricia, Gone With the Wind…how could I forget that one?  I’ve read that pne several times, starting with grade school.  I always wondered what Margaret Mitchell herself would have done with those characters had she lived to write a sequel.  Thank you again for reading, and commenting.  It means so very much to me!  Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  8. Debbe says:

    Oh Nicole, I think I could make the same stack of books in your bottom photo in our house too! I must admit, I have not used the paperless option for reading books. We don’t travel much and we ( hubs and I ) love the real thing. We just installed new reading lamps over our bed so we can cozy up this winter and read! I have too many favorite books to mention, but I will admit to MJF Life book being at the top of my top ten.. It’s my "everything good" bible and always just a reach away on my night stand. And it’s autographed too! Extra special. Sharon Lovejoy comes next in my favorite’s list. She is a wonderful writer and illustrator who’s mission in life is to cultivate wonder for all ages! I have some signed copies from her too! My mother in laws house has some real treasures…from the late 1800’s with some of the most amazing illustrations.! Oh gosh, I could go on… sure you don’t just want to come over for a cup of tea and we could chat books all day?
    Thanks for this great entry today!
    Your MJF blogging sister from the Beach!
    Deb

    PS. Your daughters collection of key chains in the show case window reminds me of our local libraries as well. Our son featured his Star Wars Lego collection once!

    Hey Deb, darlin’…maybe we CAN meet one day…I am sure we would have lots to talk about!  Fun!  I would love to see some of those books your mother-in-law has…tangible history.  My mother has a Bible that she and her husband found in an antique store.  It was carried around by a Civil War soldier.  The things he wrote it in are just amazing, and to hold it in your hand is an amazing feeling, knowing that this was his prized, dear possession.  Hope you are staying warm in MA…CT was devastated this week by a storm.  Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  9. Louise Marie says:

    Thank you for this topic. I also have loved books since I can remember. Oh, the places I have been and the people I have known intimately between the covers of books. The little lifeless machines that come alive with the books brought to us now are wonderful. However, i will always love the paper kinds in a more personal way. I can’t wait to read The Delaney Sisters’……….

    Louise Marie, drop me a line and let me know if you read it and what you think!  Always interesting to get others’ opinions on books we love.  I just read Water for Elephants.  One close friend loved it, too, another couldn’t get past the first few chapters.  Me, I was sad when it ended.  -Nicole

  10. Pam Bradley says:

    Loved your article, makes me feel guilty about loving my Kindle … there is definitely something to be said for those cherished dog-eared books of our past … My two year old granddaughter loves her books, and we turn the same pages over and over … so thanks for sharing your "love" … I will still enjoy my Kindle (albeit without the warm fuzzy feelings!)

    No guilt intended, my dear!  Enjoy! Thank you for commenting! -Nicole

  11. Adrienne Kristine says:

    I too had a set of the Childcraft encyclopedia and could read by the time I was 3. I remember all the wonderful poems and stories from volume 1. Whatever their monetary value, the books were priceless for engaging young readers.

    I wonder how many hours I spent reading and re-reading my mom’s set?  Thank you for reading, Adrienne.  -Nicole

  12. Laurie Dimino says:

    Hi Nicole,
    As usual I can totally relate to your blog. There are many times that I toy with the idea of getting an "E-Reader", such as a Nook Color etc. But I just feel like, even for soemthing as simple as a magazine I would miss turning the pages, and feeling the paper. Somehow it just doesnt seem the same, using an electronic device to "read". I happen to be one that is not real fond of all things technology. I accept it and agree that it is useful in some aspects, but I also look at technology as a negative thing in our society. I for one will not be too quick to "move on" to electronic reading. I think I will always favor a real book.

    Laurie, thank you again for reading.  When my brother (who doesn’t even have an email) got an e-reader, I ran outside to look in the sky for flying pigs!  He loves his.  I am happy I have books, for sure this week.  We lost power in a storm, and my books don’t have to be charged!  -Nicole

  13. Joy Howard says:

    My grandmother had a set of Childcraft books too. I read every one cover to cover. When I was about 7, I was allowed to walk to the library by myself. I didn’t know what books to read so I started with the A’s. Thank goodness the librarian noticed and asked me what I was doing. When I explained, she picked out books for me to read. When I read those, she picked some more. I ended up reading all of Jack London’s books and I was hooked. I have a Kindle but I love my books. My favorite author is Diana Gabaldon. Love her writing.

    Joy, Cute story, thank you for sharing!  -Nicole

  14. Marilyn says:

    I love books. There is such a thrill to having a book to cherish and reread over and over. My favorite authors are R.Delderfield, Eugenie Price, B.J. Hoff, Louisa May Alcott, Laura Lee Hope and too many more to mention.
    I love browsing through book sales. There is nothing like the excitement of finding a book you have been searching for. I have a collection of Bobbsey Twins and Honey Bunch books my twin sister and I loved to read as children. My older sister has a great collection of Nancy Drew, Beverly Gray and Judy Bolton series. I love to reread some of these books from my childhood!
    Nicole, thanks for this subject of paperbacks.I enjoyed reading all the comments too.
    Marilyn

    Oh, Marilyn, thank you! When you mentioned The Bobbsey Twins, you brought me back to second grade. My school library had a complete collection from years before, and I spent many happy days pouring through them. I also remember a Christmas Eve where my dad and I had a day together alone while my mom was shopping. We went in to a used book store, and he bought me my first Nancy Drew book. It was a happy memory. Thanks for reading! -Nicole 

  15. Gramma says:

    I can really relate to your old set of books…I finally located my treasured 10 vol. set of "The Junior Classics" by Collier. I had these books in the late 40’s and remembered one story that really stood out. I cried when I re-read it 3 years ago. I have been reading the books cover to cover since then and wish my grandkids weren’t all grown up… well, I do have one 4 yr old… the other 9 are over 18. Maybe I will start with the great-grandkids. Kindles will NEVER take the place of my books. I love turning the pages and feeling the book. Can’t teach this old mutt new tricks!

    "Gramma", loved your comment, you made me smile. Thank you! Isn’t it a great feeling to find a favorite book you haven’t seen in ages?  It’s like catching up with an old friend. Farmgirl hugs to you. -Nicole

  16. KimberlyD says:

    My favorite book when I was little was The Pokey Little Puppy, and then my mom signed me up for the Dr Seuss books through the mail. I loved books since I was tiny. Little House on the Praire, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Bengi, Black Stallion, and I use to love looking through our encycopedia’s. I did buy a nook, for I have arthritist in my shoulders and its gotten heavy to carry books in my purse, and I take my dad to his appointments so I have a book to read, but I kept a few of my favorite authors.

    That is a valid point, Kimberly…the ebooks are so nice for travel. I see a common thread…all of us ‘farmgirls’ grew up reading Little House! Thanks so much for reading, Kimberly! -Nicole

  17. Sheila Belveal says:

    I have loved reading since I was little. My Mother gave me an old book that she read as a young woman "Clara Barton, The WACS". I think that was the title. I really enjoyed it. She also gave me one titled "Tomas’ Takes Charge" That one I must have read two or three times. My dear Grandmother started me on the Emilie Loring set. She gave me 5 of them and then I collected the rest of the set of 50 books over the years from used book stores and yard sales till I had the entire set. Loved reading them. I also love Diana Gabaldon.

    Sheila, how much fun the "hunting" must have been to locate all fifty volumes of that book set! Thanks for reading and commenting!  -Nicole

  18. Carla J says:

    I have always, and always will be, an avid "bookie". Love to hold the book in my hands and travel along through the pages. Yet, I do use a kindle app on my phone to let me carry, what I call, "fluff" – those books to fill the waiting time at appts, even in line at the store.
    I buy books written by my favorite authors to savor and reread; Madeline Engle, Lewis Carroll, Sandra Dallas, Lauraine Snelling, Eugenia Price, Anne River Sidons, Pat Conroy, along with many quilt history books and biographies.
    I also have saved favorite books of my parents and children to pass on.
    Books, in the paper form, will always be a part of my life.

    I agree, Carla.  Both are nice from time to time, but my favorite is a real book.  – Nicole

  19. diane h says:

    Funny you would bring up the Childcraft books…I loved those books, especially the book of poetry…I remember in school using that book as a reference when I need to find a poem to memorize…I have a copy of that book, though not the one my mom had, but I love it just the same…and you know what…my kids used it as a reference when they were growing up…it is funny that when I see that book it has the ability to touch a place deep in my heart and memory…

    Diane, they were magical books, weren’t they?  Thank you for reading.  -Nicole

  20. Debbie Shue says:

    I love books too. I love to read them, hold them, turn the pages and even smell them. Nothing is more fun to me than browsing at the library or a used book store and finding a treasure. Yes I have a kindle and it comes in handy but will never replace a real hold in your hand book.

    Debbie, so true!  -Nicole

  21. Valerie says:

    I love to read books and can’t imagine not purchasing them or being without libraries. I do have a kindle but do not use it too often, mostly due to the fact that the paper books I purchase I want to hand off to family and friends (which none of them have a kindle and some do not have computers). I of course love to share books with others so this is a major downfall for me with electronic books. Besides who doesn’t enjoy curling up with a good book?

    So true!  Thanks for reading! -Nicole

  22. Judy says:

    Why can’t the two exsist side by side? I love both, do we have to be exclusive? I read all the wonderful Farmgirl blogs on my iPad…were it not for that device, I would not hamve discovered all you interesting people. So something is to be said for both camps.

    Judy, I’m not against technology, by far. Because of the Internet, my life is enriched immensely by the Farmgirl Connection, writing this blog, and MaryJane. I can say I have friends all over the U.S. and abroad because of technology.   Thanks for reading and commenting! -Nicole

  23. Diane Stallings says:

    I really enjoyed your article! Making books available both ways is now so important. As much as we can all benefit from the convenience of using electronic devices, the actual pages to touch make certain books and memories real ‘keepers’.

    I agree!  Thanks for reading! -Nicole

  24. Rose says:

    I like having a book and documents stored on my iphone for quick access while traveling. However, I prefer to read novels from the actual printed book. There is something about reading a book with the beautiful illustrations in it. I enjoy reading private notes that previous owners put in them.
    Like you, I enjoy book sales at libraries. I collect old books on animals, cooking and travel. Growing up, I read my sister’s hand-me-down Nancy Drew books over and over. I felt closer to my sister when reading these books even though it was 10 years later and she was about 1,000 miles away.
    Great topic and another great blog!

    Rose, what a sweet sentiment about your sister.  Thank you so much for sharing.  -Nicole

  25. Karin says:

    I have loved books since I was small. Love the feel, the smell, just holding them. When I was old enough (according to my parents; I thought I was ready much sooner), my dad would drop me off at our old hometown library (one of the beautiful Carnegie buildings, sadly now gone to make room for a concrete box)on his way back to work after lunch and pick me up when he got off at 5:00. Four wonderful hours to curl up in one of the big chairs by a tall window and read whatever I wanted! It was magic. Laura Ingalls Wilder, Jan Karon, Agatha Christie, the list goes on forever. I love to have books around and it’s very hard for me to send any of them away. Both of my grown kids are voracious readers and my son’s babies are taking after him. Recently my grandson lost a tooth and the tooth fairy left him a book. He was ecstatic. The worst punishment for either one of them is to take away one of their books at bedtime. I can see where electronic books come in handy waiting at doctor’s offices or traveling, but give my a real book any day.

    Karin, thank you so  much for sharing!  I love that the tooth fairy left your grandson a book.  How great is that?  -Nicole

  26. Georgia Prestwood says:

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    My site is on educational toys for toddlers.

  27. Loreta Watkins says:

    Reading these comments brings back great memories; my favorite Emilie Loring book was "The Shadow of Suspicion". I also love the Gabaldon books and have autographed hardcopies in my library. The new house is craftsman style and has 2 glass bookcases flanking the living room fireplace. I read Vintage Notions this morning, while sipping coffee. Aren’t we blessed to know how to read? Thanks for your blog.

    Loreta, Thank you so much for reading and commenting! Your reading spot sounds so cozy!  Enjoy! -Nicole

  28. This is my first visit to your blog, and I’m sitting here smiling with memories of Childcraft. No e-book will ever replace the smell and feel of a book that has become an old friend. Louisa May Alcott, Tasha Tudor, Judith Viorst and many others vie for space on my (nearly wall-to-wall) bookshelves, and in my heart. I now am enjoying watching my 5 year old and 20 month old granddaughters fall in love with books and reading. Life is good!

    Welcome, Fawn!  Thanks for reading.  I agree with you on that!  Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  29. Beverly Hatfield says:

    I have never used a Kindle or any such device. Lord willing, never will;) We live in such a high paced, technological world that simple pleasures MUST have a place. There is nothing like sitting down to read a good book or series of books. I call them "reading vacations". They bring rest to my soul and rest to my body and mind.

    As for my favorites, too many to share but probably Little Women and Little Men. My sister and I were given a set in 1972 and then a set of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensability in 1972. We were 11 and 12. I hoarded the Louisa May Alcott set and she the Jane Austin set. When I was younger I read my set at least once a year but sometimes 2 or 3. I read it to my children at least 3 times. I hadn’t read them in about 8 or 10 years and decided to read them again this winter. Doesn’t matter how many times I read them I always cry in the same places, laugh at the same escapades and delight in the charm of these dear books.

    Another set that I have read a number of times as a child and then passed on to many young girls is the Betsy – Tacy serier. What a delightful and charming series of days gone by.

    Fun, fun, fun!

    Beverly, I agree.  I re-read my favorites over and over, too.  It’s like visiting with old friends.  Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

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