Sunday, April 17, 2011

Wired to Read

I received a Kindle for Christmas from my daughter. As a lifelong book-lover, I've looked askance at e-readers since their appearance a few years ago. How could any modern gadget possibly rival the look and feel of your favorite book? Having reveled for endless hours in untold thousands of paper books since age 4, I was completely disinterested. It never occurred to me even to investigate the brave new world of e-reading.

Never. Until I got a Kindle.

Well, since it was a gift, I decided I should give the Kindle a try. One download later, it was like I was hooked on e-crack. They're smart, those Amazon geeks. The screen is not backlit, so the print actually looks like that on a book page. No eyestrain, and you need a light to read. Reading glasses aren't needed--the font size can be adjusted. Classics are available for free--F-R-E-E-!!! Many books are just a dollar or two. Bestsellers can be downloaded--in seconds--for considerably less than the hard cover price. There's no fear of running out of space, as this little slice of reading heaven can hold more than 3,500 books. I can now board an airplane with an entire library tossed into my carry-on.

So now, I've had to assign myself a book budget. Otherwise I know I'll go hog-wild buying books. The other night I set up a "collection" (that's Kindle-speak) named "Childhood Favorites." I went berserk downloading all the books I repeatedly read cover-to-cover as I was growing up--including, of course, The Phantom Tollbooth. At $6+, that was the most expensive item. Did I care? When I could have the first three books of the Anne of Green Gables series for 89 cents? And Little Women and Black Beauty, both for F-R-E-E? Ha! Library late fees, I laugh at you!

Currently I'm rereading Black Beauty, which in my childhood I never noticed was quite a forceful indictment against animal cruelty. I'm debating which childhood favorite to rediscover next. But meanwhile, my reading glasses are still getting a workout. I'm in the midst of reading the hard cover of Extraordinary, Ordinary People, the autobiography of Condoleezza Rice, which is on loan to me from a friend. I had actually purchased that hard cover book for his birthday gift. Somehow, I think the book-lover's honored tradition of the "lending library" will continue for a long time.

For reader exchanges alone, paper books need to survive. I insist that paper books are mandatory. Because nobody's going to touch my Kindle.