From the title of this post, I'm sure it sounds like I'm a little behind the times. But I was one of those people who, when the first e-readers came out, said I will NEVER EVER read books on a little gray screen. I want to TOUCH the book; I want to fold the corner down; I want to doodle in the margins, I want to UNDERLINE and otherwise make marks in the book, which I can then flip through and randomly locate and read aloud on the subway. I want to see the spine of the book facing out on my shelf. I want to see the stack of books next to my bed, and the stack on my desk, and the stack in my home office, and the pile near the phone, which I'm always knocking over, and the pile near the exercise bike, and the stacks on top of the books that are nicely shelved because there is no more shelf space for books in my house, read or unread. And I cannot find my copy of Island of the Colorblind, even though I've been reading it for 4 years--Wait! there it is! Turns out I was using it to raise up the mirror in my bathroom.
I have a bad habit of falling asleep while reading and then awakening with a book pressed into my eyeball, which results in dizziness and blurred vision for several hours. When I was miserably sick and read Franzen's Freedom in one marathon weekend, I fell asleep in my recliner and awoke two hours later with a severe indentation in my forehead from the edge of the book. My arm was completely numb and trapped between the heavy hardcover (562 pages!) and the arm of the chair. I was home alone, except for the kids who were playing Runescape and could not hear me calling them; it was a scary experience. Finally, I had to amputate my arm with the only tool I could reach with my other hand, which was the letter opener. I'm sure it will not surprise you to know, they're making a movie about it.
So you see, I've been reckless with the traditional book, and my reading habits have become hazardous for me.
As a result, I have taken steps to prevent this from ever happening to me again. That is, I convinced my husband that he had decided to give me a Kindle. I may have dropped some hints about it reducing health care expenses and book purchase expenses. I may have failed to mention that now I can buy twice as many books! For the same money! (If you're wondering why I didn't get an iPad--There are a number of reasons besides the cost, but essentially, I wanted something smaller, and I only wanted it for books.)
There are of course things that bother me about e-books, which is why I've waited until now to try them. These topics have been well-covered by others, but I have not heard solutions for some of these issues. For instance, how will authors sign their books if I only have an e-copy? Should I start bringing cocktail napkins to readings? And what will happen when my kids are a little older, and they do what I did, that is, they pull their parents' books off the shelves to read them and see what passages they marked many years ago? Which reminds me, I will have to put some of those books on a higher shelf. Will my kids have access to my Kindle notes and reading list? Or will 3500 gigs of books be in the e-trash-heap before they're interested?
Anyway, these concerns are tempered by my excitement at being able to carry a small device around with me instead of several large volumes. I have always kept a book in my purse for emergencies; now I can carry lots of books in my purse. Although I don't plan to purchase e-versions of most books I already own in hard copy, I believe I'm completely justified in downloading one of my favorite novels, Middlemarch, so that I can keep it handy at all times, its 795 pages fitting on the head of a pin.* Most important, did I mention that I can buy even more books than before and not be concerned about finding space for them on the shelf...?
Here's the beginning of the list I've been compiling for my new toy:
To the End of the Land, David Grossman
Normal People Don't Live Like This, Dylan Landis
Pictures of You, Caroline Leavitt
The Imperfectionists, Tom Rachman
Must You Go? My Life With Harold Pinter, Antonia Fraser
Elia Kazan: A Life, Elia Kazan
Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Writers and Artists Who Made the National Lampoon Insanely Great, Rick Meyerowitz
Memorable Days, Robert Phelps (correspondence with James Salter)
Life, Keith Richards
Musicophilia, Oliver Sacks
Cleopatra: A Life, Stacy Schiff
Saul Bellow: Letters, Benjamin Taylor
Now I need an electronic device that gives me more time to actually read the books, or I may have just as many piling up by the electronic bedside as by the actual one...
*When I went to download Middlemarch, I learned that this and numerous other classics are free e-books, because they're in the public domain. While I was happy not to have to pay for it, as a writer, I was conflicted about the idea. A blog for another occasion.