Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Further reading

So we've all heard the debate about eBooks, the Amazon Kindle, the Sony reader, the future of print, etc. (at least, I hope we all have, since I am too lazy to provide links). I am largely playing from the sidelines, since the price of entry into the fray is $300, and then you still have to pay almost full price for the books and, unlike the print market, there are no used book stores, libraries, or generous lending friends for eBooks (that I know of??) Any emotions or opinions about this dawning technology that are expressed herein are entirely theoretical.

However, I have been reading on-screen for years--computer screens, of course, but still. I am desperately behind the times in many ways (I have no interest in phones that don't plug into the wall) but reading on-screen is fine to me. I don't feel like I miss things, that I have a harder time following the text, or that it's hard on the eyes. I have read hundreds of books on computer screens, in various formats--some were in DOS.

Most of this reading, of course, has been done for work-related purposes--my various publishing jobs have required a lot of reading. On my own time, I read books in book format, for the reasons stated above and also because I like them. I like pages, I like jacket copy, I like bookmarks and perfect-binding and matte finish covers (oooh, with spot gloss!) My alleged leisure reading often has a semi-professional puropose, though: I probably read more like a student (looking to see how it works) or critic (looking to see if it works) than most. But mainly I read for pleasure. I don't watch tv, knit, golf, or own a cellphone--reading is what I do for fun. A flawless weekend, to my mind, the one I spent two weeks ago, park-hopping--going to a park, lying in the grass and reading until you get hungry/get thirsty/have to pee, going to cafe to rectify that, and then going to a different park to repeat. On a sunny summer day in good company--bliss.

I think I could do that with an electronic book, if I had to. I won't know *until* I have to, because of the price threshhold and the fact that I like paper books so much, but I don't know if it's going to be a huge big deal for me. As I started writing this post, I was going to say I mainly do my pleasure reading offline, but then I realized I sure do read a lot of blogs. And then I was going to say, oh, but not like literature online. But the truth is, in the past week alone I have had the random impulses to read The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Young Lutheran's Guide to the Orchestra and The Dead at times when the paper copies of those pieces that I own were inaccessible to me. And yet the interweb made reading happen for me, for which I am grateful. I had read all those items multiple times before on paper, and then last week on the web, and I feel safe hazarding I enjoyed them just as much this time round.

So this is a good sign (and also a sign that writing this blog allows me to think through my positions on things much more fully than simply thinking about them does). I'm scared of the electronic book, of course, as only a person who has never had a cellphone, cable television or a dishwasher can be. But I do think in the end, books being my favourite thing will triumph over my fear of the new. It'll be like a loved person in an unfamiliar hat.

Of course, my vision of the future seems to involve somebody showing up one day and taking all the paper books away and that's probably not going happen, at least not in my lifetime. Maybe, in time, my affection for paper books will come to seem as amusing as my love of landlines, and I'll sit in my corner turning pages, while the rest of the world moves on.

That wouldn't be bad at all.

Serenity now

1 comment:

AMT said...

can i please use this sort of vaguely related opportunity to complain that the fact that you do not have a cell phone drives me BONKERS! do you know how many fun and exciting text messages i would send you if only, only, only, you would join the 1990s and get a cell phone? MANY! SEVERAL!

get a cell phone. then we can talk about whether you need a kindle. thank you. that is all.