I still remember the smell of my elementary school library — the scent of well-loved books and paperback leaves. I still see how the shelves are arranged — the tables in the center of the room, and the door that led to the playground.

And I remember the precious gem of Sideways Stories from Wayside School.

I checked out many books from my school library, including Halfway Down Paddy Lane, a childhood favorite. But every now and then I had an overwhelming bookwormy need to visit Wayside School. I loved Louis Sachar’s crazy and ridiculous stories and wished my school was more like Wayside, despite the evil Mrs. Gorf.

But I wasn’t the only one who loved Wayside. Most of the time, the book was already checked out. I had to wait and wait and wait. It would finally appear — its spine cracked and disjointed; pages worn from a thousand hungry fingers — and I would carry it home like a rare and precious gem. I had something that was in high demand, and it was mine! Fora time, at least.

If you asked me to write about the time I got a book from Amazon, what would I say? That I opened a box and there it was, less than forty-eight hours after I ordered it, barely enough time to grow impatient? Do I treat those books like rare gems? No, reader. I do not. I may read them and love them, but if you asked me to describe their spines and pages in twenty years, I’m not sure I would remember. 

There’s a reason why libraries are magical. They’re an experience, not a delivery service.