The other day, on the way home from the office on the bus, I finished a book on my Kindle. The ability to read for 20 uninterrupted minutes, each way, is the only thing that makes working downtown worthwhile. During the first year (which is the only year I kept count) that I commuted downtown, I read more than 40 books. Which, for an admittedly slow reader, is quite an accomplishment.
The night I finished my novel, I had a dinner date with friends and didn’t get home until after 9 pm. At which time, I found myself without a book to read. For an avid reader like me, this is entirely unacceptable. In days gone by I might have panicked. But this is 2012 and I own an e-reader. I logged on to my account on the Kindle website and found a book I wanted to read. I clicked one button, enabled the wireless connection on my device: et voila. The book magically downloaded itself through the ether with the help of unicorns and pixie dust (don’t kid yourself; it really works this way). I didn’t have to wait for the book to arrive in the mail nor did I have to trudge through the cold, dark winter landscape to a closed store, my nose pressed against the frigid glass, unable to reach the beloved book of my dreams.
I’ve had an e-reader for about six months. At first, as a long-time lover of books, their smell, feel, taste (yes, I’ve licked a book), I felt hesitant to give up my traditional method of reading. But, over time, I relented. I’m married to a rabid techno-geek. Inside my house is every electronic gadget you can imagine. My living room has so many cords snaking through it that the floor looks like the bottom of the pit in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I believe I was relatively slow to embrace e-reader technology not because I would have to give up books (because I have absolutely no intention of giving up books) but because I wanted the technology to give me everything I might need in a device. My husband bought a Kobo early in its release. I tried it. I did not like it. It was slow to download and slow to load each chapter (depending on length). I had no idea where I was in the book because there was no percent counter. Sure, you could see a page number, but that changed every time you increased or decreased the font size, so it was essentially meaningless information. It had no search function so when I inevitably had no idea who the character Fizzbot was, I couldn’t look back to his first mention and read about him again. Not without going through every slow-to-load page.
When the Kindle came out, I read about its features with growing excitement. It had a percent counter and a full keyboard with search function. It was the size of a book and I could buy (not cheaply, mind you) a cover with a built-in light. It used e-ink and wasn’t backlit, which is important for getting that “it’s a book” feel. Some of the new devices, like the Kindle Fire and Kobo Vox, have backlit screens. So I’m glad I purchased the older version. I work on a computer all day so the last thing I want at night is too look at another computer screen. Ugh.
In my opinion, just when the perfect e-reader came out, the manufacturers decided that wasn’t enough and tried to fancy it up with operating systems, touch screens, and back-lighting. But maybe there’ll be a backlash against the back-lighting, at the very least, among the eye-weary workers who just want to read something that resembles a book.
Speaking of which, simply because I own an e-reader, as I mentioned earlier, doesn’t mean I’ve stopped buying and reading books. For several reasons:
I still love me a good new book. The sound of riffling pages and the smell of binding glue is part of the joy of it, for me.
I’m not only a reader, I’m a writer and I know other writers. There’s great joy and excitement when someone I know successfully publishes a book. Damn right I’ll be buying a copy at the first opportunity and annoying them until they sign it for me.
I have to put something on my shelves and I’m not into knickknacks. The ability of e-readers to store hundreds of books is a bonus. Now I don’t have to worry about where to put them all. However, I also love to be surrounded by books that I love. If there’s a particularly exciting and anticipated book release by an author I love, I’ll buy it, read it and display it. And then I get to sit in a room surrounded by my favourite books and that’s what life’s all about.