Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Paperback Derider

Got a Kindle as a retirement gift. It was a perfect gift by my definition, something I'd have never gotten for myself but discovered I liked a lot when it was handed to me.

It was the novelty of it that I thought I was enjoying. Turning "pages" by flicking a button. Shopping, buying and reading books on the same device. True, they were imitation books, but still books, and cheaper! It all seemed like good fun.

Then my friend Doreen touted the Song of Ice and Fire series to me. Fantasy isn't a genre I've cared much about, at least not since the Lord of the Rings. But I downloaded A Game of Thrones, and the dungeons and dragons gradually overcame my reservations.

Meanwhile, Doreen was touting the series to Pam, who ordered the whole four-book series in paperback from Amazon. So when I was done with Thrones and ready for A Clash of Kings, I picked up the 2-inch-thick volume to resume my escapism.

It may be the last time I turn to a printed book for recreational reading pleasure, because for me it's no longer pleasure at all. You have to fight a thick paperbound stack of pages constantly for access to the words on them.

It starts the moment you pick the thing up. It's heavy, and you need to keep changing hands with it or your thumb goes to sleep. Keeping it open to your page is a test of manual dexterity. Keeping it open wide enough so you can see the words down the middle is really a two-hand task, and even then you need to keep changing its orientation to the light depending on whether you're trying to see the right hand page or the left. The miserable shadow gutter down the middle is always lurking.

If you're reading late in bed, you have to annoy your sleeping partner with a nightstand lamp. (Whereas my e-reader cover came with a little nite lite.) If your hand or wrist does go to sleep and you drop the book, it loses your place. An e-reader never forgets.

I'm amazed at how short a time it took this technology to deface and destroy my lifelong taste for book fondling. I never gave a second thought to the petty nuisances associated with consuming pulp fiction. Suddenly they're unacceptable.

It reminds me a lot of the time 15 or 20 years ago when power windows in cars became ubiquitous. When they first appeared, they seemed like a frill for people who had more money than they knew what to do with. But after I owned my first set of hands-free windows, I remember getting into a car with the old winder-uppers and wondering who could live like this.

It's a sad admission for somebody who spent his life working in an arm of the publishing industry, but I'm spoiled for print. I know there are those of you out there who say, "I just like the way it feels to hold a book while I'm reading." My response to that is, what are you smoking?

1 comment:

  1. I read War and Peace on my iPhone last year. It sounds like a punchline, but I never would have managed it if I had been lugging the printed book around with me.