Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Seduced by a Machine

 After putting it on my list and removing it several times, I received a Kindle for Christmas. I was conflicted for two reasons; I have several digital devices I barely know how to use and I love books.  I have already used it more than my Wacom tablet, voice recorder and camera combined.

I downloaded lots of free books and bought one book, Troubled Water by Sharon Shinn. She is one of the authors whose books I keep after reading. I no longer keep all the books I buy. Reading is such a necessity to me that I consume them like an anteater sucking up ants. Most don't make it onto the bookshelf but are sold or donated.

The free books are mostly pre-1926 and out of copyright. Mark Twain, Agatha Christy, and Mary Shelly now reside on my Kindle. Never again will I be struck with terror at 11 PM with the thought "Oh No! I have nothing to read".

This is all good. Think of the possibilities of finding out of print books. I've  already found some by E. Nesbit, another author I collect (had to pay for those). And it only takes one hand to hold which is very nice when reading in bed.

Still I am conflicted; I love books. I love the way they look and smell, even old musty ones. And I love book stores. Is there any place more wonderful to visit on a rainy day? Will ereaders destroy all that?

 I am uncertain about the actual reading experience. The beauty of reading which other media cannot duplicate is to create in the reader the feeling that she has actually been in the places she reads about. Through books I have been in Hogwarts. I rode down the Mississippi with Huck and Jim. I saw the Illustrated Man's tattoos move and heard the beating of the tell-tale heart.

With other storytelling media, like TV and movies there is a transparent wall which I look through to watch the story unfold. Books put me in the room with the characters. Much of the landscape and interiors of my mind are places I have never been, yet are as real to me as any I have actually encountered.

With  ebooks I think, I am not sure yet, but I think that I don't see the place and characters as completely as I do with a physical book. The pictures created in my mind seem not to be as richly imagined.

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