Regular readers of this blog know how I feel about books and libraries and bookstores. I love them all.
Weekly trips to the library were a big part of my childhood. I’d stock up on picture books, then Dr. Seuss books, then chapter books, dragging home armloads or totebags full of hour upon hour of delicious reading.
That trend has continued in more recent years, with the addition of buying vintage books to resell online, which has led to stacks, boxes, and bins of books in various nooks, crannies, and bits of storage space.
Perhaps that is why Chris gave me a Kindle for Christmas. I didn’t know I wanted one. Even opening the box, I wasn’t sure I was buying in to this e-reader business.
But Chris explained gently that he was tired of watching me read on my iPhone, where – unable to wait to get my hands on a real copy – I had uploaded Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. And then Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone. I will admit that reading a book on an iPhone leaves a lot to be desired. You’re constantly “turning the pages” by sliding your thumb, and while the exertion is minimal, it’s nonstop. Only so many words can fit on that little screen.
I also had to agree with Chris that the thought of storing stacks and stacks of books inside one slim little gadget was very appealing. And so I began reading on the Kindle, first the story of Henrietta Lacks, then Unbroken. Here are my findings.
1. The Kindle is nice for reading at bedtime. There’s something calming and orderly about it. You can underline parts if you want, and refer back to them, and also look up words instantly. However, if I wake up at 3 AM and want to read, the illumination on the Kindle is insufficient. I would have to turn on a bedside lamp, and that might wake up Chris, and therefore I move to another room. As someone once said, the Kindle screen is like a wet newspaper – grey and glum.
2. The Kindle allows you to go shopping, virtually, and haul home your new book loot within seconds. No waiting for your name to come to the top of the list at the library reserve desk. No searching for a parking spot at Borders or Barnes & Noble. You can still browse, even try out a book without committing to buy, and then click on what you want to read next. It’s gratification of the instant variety. Patience may be a virtue, but when you’re dying to crack open a new book, patience can also be agony. The word “patience” does not exist in a Kindle world.
3. Great for the gym. Before Kindle, I would go to the YMCA with my iPod and hope in my heart that I would find a decent magazine in the racks. This hope was usually dashed upon the reality of Diabetes Today, Barnard Alumni Magazine (note to Barnard alums: there aren’t that many of you at the YMCA, and your “donation’ is going over like a lead balloon), People Magazine, and Cosmo. Given this choice, I would of course go with People magazine, which has the virtue of large type and the vice of trashy topics. Teen Moms! Celebrities Taking Out Their Trash! Look Who Has a Baby Bump! Who Rocked The Dress Best!
Also, I don’t recognize any of the folks in People magazine are anymore. As Chris said a few years ago, who ARE these people on the cover of grocery check-out magazines?
Also, I don’t say “rocked” for “wore” or “baby bump” for pregnant.
In short, I have no business reading People Magazine, but desperation would often drive me to it. Then I’d be embarrassed to be seen with it.
Furthermore, the giant fan in the corner of the gym would ruffle the pages, meaning I had to either wedge the magazine between the ledges on the machine, or keep a tight hold on it.
The Kindle solves all of these problems. It sits neatly and securely on the ledge of the exercise machines. The fan doesn’t blow it over. Nobody can see what I’m reading, so I’m not embarrassed to be caught looking at giant pictures of Tom Cruise’s demonic smile or Kesha’s trash bag dress. Sadly, yes, I now know who Kesha is.
But now, with my Kindle at the gym, I can read about the incredible trials of Louis Zamperini or the family of Henrietta Lacks, and become lost in their fascinating stories. I’m improving my mind AND my body.
The only drawbacks are these: I fear that I will absentmindedly leave the Kindle somewhere, and I regret that I can’t loan a friend a book I’ve just finished.
Other than that, I’m sold.