So when I had Big T, my mother-in-law and I had not quite reached the understanding we had in those last years. But still, she showed up with books for me to read as I recuperated. Amanda Quick, Julie Garwood, Bertrice Small– I hadn’t read romance since college (admittedly not THAT far in my rearview when T was born) but oh wow.

Did I ever love those books.

I must have read Ravished six to eight thousand times. I can still hear Harriet stomping her foot and snapping, “I was NOT ravished!”

It delighted me to no end.

I still have those books–they started me back down the path into the joys of romance.

For a while, we had a book store near us that would take used paperbacks in trade.

I sucked at that store. The POINT is that you bring all of the paperbacks that you finished reading in, and they give you credit so you can get an entire other bag of them.  But every paperback I read was SPECIAL. It was a TREASURE. How could I give it back if I might reread it again?

I loved every word of them.

Right before my MIL passed, she had gone on a giant “simplify my life” kick. Part of it was her new interest in religion, but part of it was that she just didn’t like clutter. She liked things simple and everything she needed should have been at her fingertips.

When we were going through her stuff, her shelves were all about genealogy and taxes and property investment–except for one. There was this one shelf dedicated to Grace Burroughs and Bertrice Small.

Seeing that shelf was a hard moment. I mean, I’m a hoarder by nature–but this woman had made simplifying her existence to a one room apartment into an art form, and she still couldn’t get rid of those books. They’d all been read until the ink on the spines was flaking, and you could barely make out the titles.

When I first started writing, no matter who was publishing me or what format seemed to be big, I insisted on paperback.  Yes, sure, e-books were coming. But a paperback you could hold in your hand. I probably read e-books more now, but I still buy my favorites in paperback. I don’t even read them that way, I just stroke their spines and dream.

They remind me that getting lost in a book is exactly the same as getting lost in a forest. It’s perilous and you’re not always sure you can battle your way out and when you do emerge, you are changed somehow, usually for the better.

I dislike this idea that e-books are disposable, eatable like potato chips, with no nutritional value for the brain. I abhor the notion that writers just pump books out like a queen ant plopping pupa and those ants scurry about, appreciable in their volume but not in their character. It’s not the format that makes that so–it’s a perception I’d love to kill.

I work damned hard to put a little bit of poetry, a little bit of music, in every story I write. There’s a moment in every book that is something that has happened to me, or someone I loved. A moment that I want to point to and holler, “IT ME! BE RESPECTFUL! IT ME!”

When I get my copies of books in paperback–particularly mass market paperback–I am reminded once again that the ideas in books are permanent. That books are true and real things. That when someone falls down a rabbit hole and reads a book until dawn, they have had an EXPERIENCE. Of course they can have that experience on Kindle or the Nook–but contrary to what people online believe 90% of discovery still happens in your local book store or library. Having that book there for someone to pick up, browse through, fall into, is like providing a gateway to your heart that only the worthy may pass through.

My bio on amazon (though terribly outdated in SO many ways) always ends with “She’ll tell you that any sacrifices, large and small, are worth the urge to write.”

That’s because being read and savored and being put on the keeper shelf is like sharing your soul with someone–and having them find it good.

Paperbacks may eventually go the way of the dodo–and if we can find a way to recycle e-waste, that’ll be fine. But until that day, until everybody reads on their tablet or their phone, until electronics are available to EVERYBODY, ink on paper is a format that has worked for literally thousands of years.

Just touching a paperback gives me a link to all the ideas that have gone on before.

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