Once upon a time, not too long ago, there was just The Book. No, not THAT book, but a book. You remember. Actual printed pages encased between two covers. And the only decision to be made was whether to buy the hard cover edition or wait for the cheaper, lighter weight paperback version.
Then along comes the e-reader, turning the most authentic of the three R’s completely on its head. (Actually, it’s the only authentic R, “writing” and “’rithmetic” not actually beginning with an R at all. Having been exposed to this corruption at a tender age, it’s a wonder the lot of us didn’t grow up dyslexic.)
I for one did not immediately embrace this new technology, stubbornly adhering to the belief that books are not supposed to come with batteries and charger cords. But eventually I did succumb, and now do most of my reading on an I-Pad.
But this decision, however convenient, has caused me no small degree of angst. Not unlike the time I ditched my boyfriend. I have abandoned a love object, and caused a major disconnect with my past.
I have always been an avid reader, a lover of stories. Going to the neighborhood library each week and returning home with an armload of books is one of my fondest childhood memories. The day I learned to sign my name and was rewarded with my very own library card was thrilling. A rite of passage that was, at the time, as significant as a first date, but without all the groping.
(Just out of curiosity, how many of you still have library cards?)
I miss books. I miss the smell of them, the feel of them. The romance of them. When I was young and finished a book I really enjoyed, I would hug it to my bosom (or the place where my bosom would eventually be, although it took long enough!). Maybe even plant a kiss on its little binding. Somehow my I-Pad does not move me in this direction.
I know that with my use of an e-reader I am participating in to the eventual disappearance of the printed page. And all that goes with it.
Rooms that once contained books will be empty. We will have to rethink the den. Book shelves and book cases will become obsolete. Bookends might wind up as relics in the Smithsonian. And unless we find a secondary use, the book mark will share the fate of the dodo bird.
What will happen to autographed copies, first editions, leather bindings, book signings? Will public libraries become dance clubs?
And how can I possibily dog-ear an electronic page? I know, I know. You’re not supposed to dog-ear pages, but it has been my secret little sin – my personal mark on my personal copy of a book I took the time to read.
But while I lament the fate of the book, I have to acknowledge the convenience of the Kindle and all of its kin. And I suppose we can endow the e-reader with a romance of its own.
I find something deliciously surreptitious, even wanton, about buying a book at two in the morning while lying in my bed. Like having a tryst with Amazon in the middle of the night. And the gratification is accomplished in less than a minute. (There are all kinds of things I can say about that, but I’ll take a pass.) Before I can even light up a cigarette, delivery is complete. Thanks to Whispernet!
Whispernet! I have no idea what that is, but it sounds awfully sexy. I imagine Jeff Bezos murmuring sweet nothings in my ear as I float up to his private Cloud.
Speaking of sweet nothings and the middle of the night, the e-reader is very kind to bed-mates. One is able to read into the wee hours without the need of a bed lamp. Lighting your way to the toilet is a secondary benefit. But be sure you can make it back before the thing turns itself off!
I have now grown accustomed to awakening at three in the morning and seeing my husband’s face glowing in the dark. At first it was a bit startling, him surrounded by a halo. It took a few seconds to realize that we were not, in fact, dead, and it was only the light from his Google reader. Now I find it quite flattering. A little like candlelight. I am moved to interrupt his reading.
And E-readers have other advantages. Travelling, of course. No longer needing space in our suitcase for books, we can pack those extra pairs of shoes and still have room for the bounty of an extended shopping spree. Yay Kindle!
So I continue to deal with the quandry. Book vs. Technology. With so many e-book users, I know there’s no turning back. And I certainly don’t want to be a dinosaur. But curling up on the couch with my I-Pad on a rainy afternoon just isn’t the same as holding a book in my hands.
Books are three dimensional. E-readers are flat. To me, it’s the difference between having the real object or just a picture of the object.
So next time I want to buy a book, what will I do? I like to think I would follow my romantic attraction to book jackets and trot on over to my local book store and plunk down the money for the real McCoy. Unless, of course, the desire overtakes me in the middle of the night, when I will have no choice but to once again resume my affair with Amazon.