The world continues to tilt underneath my feet. Someone else on the team here got an e-reader. Let’s not name names but it was Josh.

He sent me this photo, mocking me with his good light and the e-reader life.

He’s been talking about reading in bed, and reading in the shower, and all this reading he’s going to be doing on it. Oh, look how much memory it has it can store a gajillion books. I told him this story of how, years ago, I went into a cafe and saw a couple sitting there at a table, drinking coffee, each reading their e-readers. It was wild, the image of it still seared into my brain. It was the Starbucks at Logan and Queen, by the old shop on Carlaw. He was unfazed. This pandemic has really changed all of us. None of us are going to be the same coming out of this. And some of us are going to have e-readers.*

I’m being dramatic. Actually last year I was contemplating getting one before traveling. The debate had been between getting an e-reader and bringing my laptop, or getting an iPad and using it both for work and to read books. The iPad won and is marvellous, and I use it for work everyday now, but it’s not great to read books on (or maybe I just haven’t tried hard enough) and I’ve always stuck with physical books. While abroad, Jon took this passive aggressive picture of me using the iPad to prop open a physical book while I was eating in a hotel room. He called it the $1200 page anchor.

In all seriousness, though, there are going to be changes in how we all do things, how often or how we go to libraries or shopping malls. How we travel, how we greet people, how close we get to people on the streetcar, how we pass a cup of coffee from one hand to another. How people are going to visit small, independent shops like ours. A lot of people say this is a good thing, we should’ve been washing our hands more often to begin with, we should’ve been sanitizing surfaces and bleaching things and keeping a good supply of toilet paper anyways (says every first generation Asian mother). But I’m not sure what this means for our shop, and if people will come back to us, and it’s heady when I think about it too much.

I often think about our shop and this phrase of the wheels coming off the wagon, the wagon being set barrelling downhill at full speed. Hold on tight everyone! Is the best we can manage. We’re just taping things up, pulling out a board here to nail it there, and ordering in new lines and new shipments. Every time discussions involve numbers above 10k, 20k, 40k, 100k, my eyes start to get glazed over and we just plug up another hole with packaging material. Bandaids everywhere, those waxy paper bits littering the ground behind us as though children have raided underneath the bathroom sink, which they have. When things slow down (will they?), the state of the wagon is going to be alarming. People are going to walk back into the shop treading lightly, for any number of reasons, children springing out from behind the counter. Social distancing! Is that jam on your hands!

Doug Ford has announced some staged re-opening plans, and we’re working on adjustments. Curbside pick up? Trying to be safe and wise and keep it up through the marathon. Does this herald the end? Is it one stage and then the next and then we’re ramping back up? Or is this just a strategy to help keep us through a stage that’s destined to last months more?

In any case, the kids have set up a shop in the case that we don’t make it. Selling used pencils and pencil crayons, toy dinosaurs, comic books. Prices vary. Can take your phone orders if you’re standing really close to them. Free local delivery if you’re within 50 metres and can offer cookies. Rainbow chips ahoy preferred, but will accept anything with chocolate.

*I’m just kidding about the e-readers. Almost everyone I know who has gotten an e-reader has really loved it, and said it was transformative to their reading life, pandemic or not. A few in particular have talked about the benefits of traveling or going to the cottage with it, but most have just found it to make it easier to read.

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May 08, 2020 — wonderpens



wonderpens said:

Yes, there is something very satisfying about feeling the progress through a book physically, to see the thickness of pages invert from the back to the front as you read through it. The spines on the shelves, the weight of a book in your hand. I’m also an underliner and note writer in my books! And to re-read your books that you’ve made notes in, your own writing or someone else’s, is an experience that is hard to replicate in the same way through an e-book.

Yes—“you don’t miss things until they are gone.” How true this was in pre-pandemic times, and even more so now, when the changes have been swift and huge. Before, we quietly mourned the loss of one independent business or another, but these days, we are all trying to weather a different sort of storm.

Thank you so much for your support and encouragement. We wouldn’t be here without people like you in our community.


wonderpens said:

Yes, for sure. I remember doing a bit of phone reading when I was nursing Naomi a lot in the dark to get her to sleep, but it was rough—the tiny screen! I could feel my eyes shrivelling (although that was more likely from reading the screen in the dark).


wonderpens said:

I completely agree—the feel in the hand is so hard to replace.


wonderpens said:

Physical books are so hard to replace. It’s the smell, the feel, the way they hold in the hand. And yes especially to the beauty of the covers! There are some book covers that I really love, and the design and art of the way a book is put together.
And—oh, the library.

Can’t wait to see you on the other side of this. Thanks so much for your support.


Eric said:

I agree about the e-reader thing. I also bought an iPad, mostly to read books. I love how I can make an impulse purchase from my couch but, sadly, that’s the best part. I do not get the same joy from watching my bookmark progress through the pages. I do not get the same joy as I do by admiring the covers, spine, and how the book is laid out. Page 75 IS page 75 in a paper book, when you adjust the font size in an ebook page 75 becomes something else. Then there are the notes I can slip into the book or the marginalia I can create that is simply not the same digitally.

How we come out of Covid promises to be a new way of living. I certainly hope you manage to see the other side. If I lived in Toronto, I would make a point of visiting your shop. I have a few places, here in Edmonton, that I’ve promised myself to visit more often. Like the saying goes, “You don’t miss things until they are gone.”

For my part I am making your website the first place I go when I’m thinking about stationary and an analog life.

Gloria Johnstone

Gloria Johnstone said:

I have tried two e-readers and have found that I prefer books. The glowing screens of computers and e-readers tire my eyes and can’t hold a light (pun intended) to the joy that books bring – the ease of navigating physical pages, the beauty of covers, paper, fonts and art work. The feel and smell of them. I miss my library sooooo much. I look forward to visiting your store again Liz and Jon. Hang in there. We need you.


Janine said:

NO to e-readers!! I looooove the feel and smell of paper… A good old fashioned book in my hand!


Claudia said:

I feel you on the e-reader front. I find them very appealing, especially for travel, but physical books still have my heart. And I just CANNOT get into reading books on my phone (the e-ink on e-readers are really great <3)

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