What benefits does a book provide that an e-book does not? Why, for example, have the Friends provided a room full of children’s books for sale at Hilltop Books, their new store at 84 Bethlehem Pike?
A book is a medium of communication. These days, parents read bedtime stories to their kids from their laptops. Who needs to have a physical book when the internet delivers the same content to parents and children in digitized form? An e-book requires no storage space and is usually far less expensive than ink on paper.
The Friends of the Chestnut Hill Library believe that children benefit from the old-fashioned paper versions. The reasons are not simply rationalizations for nostalgia, although there is certainly a lot of nostalgia about the days before the internet revolutionized human communication. But nostalgia is not rational, it is emotional. What benefits does a book provide that an e-book does not? Why, for example, have the Friends provided a room full of children’s books for sale at Hilltop Books, their new store at 84 Bethlehem Pike?
First, you don’t have to use a computer. Children are not usually adept until after they start school. Nor do parents want their children messing about on smartphones or household computers, fearful of the mistakes they might make or the content they might find. If you want a child to pick up a book, you have to have a book.
The children’s room of the new bookstore features a freshly painted mural by Maddie Megargee. Maddie, a 2016 Springside Chestnut Hill Academy grad, painted a floor-to-ceiling Chestnut tree and local animals on a narrow wall of the children’s room, taking inspiration from Winnie the Pooh and Beatrix Potter books.
Maddie had help from her friends Hannah Lebowitz-Lockard and Anna Kane, all local women with a passion for books who much prefer to browse in a bookshop to buying books online. Like most young professionals, Maddie has been working online since the pandemic began. Shutting down the computer and picking up a book is like a reward for a day spent in front of the glow.
Maddie grew up with the Internet yet prefers to read hardcopy rather than e-copy. As an undergrad at Connecticut College (Class of 2020), she printed out the instructional packets and assigned reading material because her concentration is more focused with print-on-paper, because there are fewer distractions like social media or “breaking news” or advertising windows, that she feels more in control of the reading experience with a book in her hands. She likes holding actual books, they seem more real, the content more substantial because it doesn’t disappear when you finish a page.
I, of an older generation, was curious about whether she was an exception among her contemporaries. Are books obsolete? Maddie sees no indication of that. All of her friends like paper books. I asked whether she thought that printed children’s books were in any way better than e-books.
“When I was little, having books on shelves in our house was a wholesome temptation,” she said. “Being able to see, touch and choose from a selection of books is empowering. I’m sure I became a better reader because I chose what I wanted to read. My fondest childhood memories are of going to the library every single weekend. I just love books. I think my friends feel the same. I was just so excited when I first heard about having a bookstore in Chestnut Hill. And it’s a really nice one. And I really like the idea that it is meant to raise money for the public library.”
I suspect she’s a little biased by having painted the mural. But I agree. For her service as muralist, she was given a free book of her choice. She picked John Irving’s “Cider House Rules”. It was a difficult decision, she said, because the selection at Hilltop Books is so “amazing”.
Hilltop Books, located at 84 Bethlehem Pike, is currently open Thursday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. and hopes to expand days in the future with a grand opening date. You can also reserve an appointment by going to chlibraryfriends.org and select “Hilltop Books” from the menu.
Stan Cutler is a regular contributor to the Local and is a member of the board of the Friends of Chestnut Hill Library.