Monday, March 18, 2013

Thoughts on the reading of books now.

Against all of my instincts, I'm becoming converted, almost against my knowing to the digital eBook cult. This is kind of maddening to me; because I thought the idea of eBooks was intriguing, but also a little bit stupid. How could anyone ever possibly choose a plastic hunk over a rich, textured, beautiful hardcover book?

Then we moved to Maine. This was planned to be a brief trip, not more than five years until we either set up a permanent residence or moved on to something better. So my entire library of books and comics and everything else I'd surrounded myself with was left behind in Idaho. I brought a few select titles, A couple Lawrence Watt-Evans, a Marshal Karp, Douglas Adams, Stuff that I loved to read over and over, but there was a snag. The other source of my books (The roughly 200 a year I read) had to come from library borrowing.

Turns out that libraries in small town Maine are kind of few and far between and have erratic collections and hours, mostly falling right between my times at work. My wife decided my best solution was to get an E-Reader. After a bit of research, I went with the original nook reader, primarily because is used the epub file format rather than the format and programs that the Kindle went with. I also like the layout of the reader better than the Kindle.

It took some getting used to but I eventually fell in love with books again and got quite used to the experience of reading on the device. There was also something seductive about the idea of making a few clicks and having a new title ready to read. Hey Presto!

I built up my library quickly, mostly through cheap collections and promotions and trading files with online friends, much like swapping paperbacks. Every now and then, I'd be browsing through my collection and feel a pang of desire to see the real covers, judge a book by them and the heft of the paper, whether I wanted to read it based off of the blurb on the back, but overall I was pretty happy.

Since then, my digital reader zoo has been enlarged. The old original nook, its bezel cracked and chipped after hundreds of books was set aside, replaced by a pocket edition Sony reader and books side loaded on my iPod touch. I also started listening to a lot of books on tape on my long commutes. Then I picked up the newest nook, the Glow edition. Man, I love that little thing. Lightweight, intuitive, quick, and I use the glow feature all of the time. I used to use the iPod for in bed reading but adjusting the super bright light was a bit of a pain and I hated the strain my eyes felt but the new nook allowed me to pretty much wander the darkened hall of my house as I prepared for bed, reading and winding down after a long day. I even use it as I wander the block-long driveway to get the mail.

I was the kid growing up that walked into street signs because he was reading constantly and I was back again.

Recently, my wife laid a bit of an ultimatum down on me – Go through the books on our slowly growing and overflowing bookshelf. For, although I've been good, I cannot fully resist books. They're drawn to me – Old pulp novels in back corners of antique shops, book drop off bins in grocery stores, yard sales, co-workers and friends unloading their old books on me. I take everything.

The problem is that I don't read everything. Despite my moaning about my missing library, I let the collection of books build, mostly unread. But now, change is on the wind. We are planning a move back to the West in about a year and things have to be thinned. So before another book may be bought, these orphan books must be read. If they find a permanent home with us, great. If not, they have to go, but I have to read every one first.

My nook has sat in its case for a week now, almost two. Its last screen the last page in a Robert B. Parker novel while I read through odd paperback editions of “Romance Thrillers” and gothic suspense and westerns from the forties. Some are quite good, some are Nora Roberts. I adore the texture of the paper and the simple joy of holding my place with a finger. I still love REAL BOOKS.

Then I'll go to bed and realize to read my book without waking the wife, I'll need to dig out the fiddly book light, or I'll try to hold the book in some awkward way that I'd usually find quite simple with the nook and be scuttled. I'm really surprised how the natural movements I've developed with the reader are at odds with a paperback.

My solution? I have no idea. The simple fact is that I'm happier when I'm in a room filled with books. If I visit someone and I don't see at least a few novels strewn about, my respect for them drops a notch or two, whether I mean it or not. I think a happy balance would be keeping the rare stuff, the old pulps and the nice hardbacks that I love, maybe enough for a two story library and keep the rest on my reader. That oughtta work.

How about you? Have you converted to digital exclusively? Is it from convenience or do you actually like the way of reading better?