10 June 2009

You won't need those bookshelves much longer...

I’ve been thinking about how I ruin books. Maybe I should go electric, get a Sony E Reader, or an Amazon Kindle 3Dog Fire Starter, or whatever they call electronic book reading devices these days.

My real books are displaying distressing amounts of wear and tear, plus water stains from wet hands.

I have in the past inflicted serious damage upon books, especially novels of great length that take weeks to finish. Take the one before me, for example: “Stone’s Fall” by Iain Pears, 594 pages.

To keep it fresh, I took off the dust jacket and hid it somewhere. When I finish peering at the acknowledgments, outside flyleaf, inside flyleaf, right rear flyleaf, left outside rear flyleaf, typeface explication, table of contents, Also By This Author page, title page, second extra big title page, copyright page, To My Mother page, Part One page, and page one itself... when I finish all those pages and the book itself, I will go hunt for the dust jacket. If I haven’t accidentally torn it, or crushed it under a box, dropped it in the sink, or hit it with a splash of chocolate milk, I will put it back on the book like a clean diaper, protecting the body from dust damage.

These potential disasters would be history if I owned an electronic book reading machine. If you drop Kindle into the bath tub, pull it out immediately. If you do that to your book, well, that’s why they invented the microwave. Tip: Do not microwave your Kindle. It makes sparks and funny noises!

To get my hands on a Kindle, short of stealing it from someone who falls asleep using it in a public place, I would have to buy it for, say, $359 dollars, no sales tax, because this is The Internet.

I’d want that leather book cover, $29.95. After a couple of recharges and some extended excitement downloading things I could have 1500 titles in my hands, some free, others $9.99 each, unless marked otherwise.

Another way I hurt books is I carelessly leave things inside. Last night I dozed off near page 312 and left a bundle of Post-it notes inside the book. This afternoon I realized I had bent the spine by laying other books on top. You can’t do that to a Kindle, unless you rest a chair leg on the screen and then sit down by accident.

I have a lot of books due to lack of electronic book reading machines. Few of my books are well cared for, though most are loved. Some are stacked the way they should be stacked, in tight, neat rows on bookshelves. Others recline sideways and upside down, in piles on the floor, on tables, at my elbow, behind my back, on footstools and on benches in the garden. Some of these books will eventually fall to the ground, get eaten by snails, or stepped on by me, the wife, the cat, or all three of us and this would likely be less of a problem with a Kindle.

This morning in my local independent wood-and-nails bookstore I saw Michael Chabon’s collection of literary essays, “Maps & Legends: Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands” and it jumped into my hand. Then I picked up Charles Bukowski’s early poetry collection, “The Roominghouse Madrigals,” to check on a particular poem. Somehow those books followed me to the cash register, two irresistible puppies.

The Kindle experience could be something like that. There are many intriguing titles (online you can: Look Inside the Book!) and it’s easy to buy them. After you have a couple hundred in your Kindle, there’s the question of finding time to read one all the way through.

The Kindle is neat and efficient, and its editorial contents are not likely to rot, mold, bend or get eaten by puppies.

Look at that new Kindle, resting on the empty bookshelf. Kind of makes you want to sit down with a good book, doesn’t it?


paul, a bookseller said...

But you can't use a Kindle as toilet paper when you're camping in the woods.

Even though I have not embraced the Kindle, I have come to accept it as the future of reading. It seems like once a month, I hear a friend or colleague say, "Have you ever used a Kindle? They're actually not that bad." Translation: I just got one and I really like it, but I'm not going to go ape over it in front of you because I know what you do for a living.

I used to think CDs didn't sound as good as vinyl. I got over it. Can't even remember the last time I purchased a record.

I used to think photos taken by digital cameras weren't as vibrant as photos on film. I got over it. I haven't used my film camera for about five years now.

Who knows, maybe 10 years from now I'll be lauding the Kindle's ability to make fonts bigger....if we still haven't found anything to replace the magnifying glass.

annie said...

ok here's my two cents on Kindle and real books. I am an avid reader, maybe 3 hours per day so I go through a lot of books. In our cottage we have strange walls that go at angles so finding a flat place for bookshelves is a trial. I had one recently handmade for my last remaining flat wall space and it is filled and then some with stacks on the top shelf's books. Library books are good because you can take them back but our small library doesn't keep up with me so I give it a rest for months or two at a time so they can catch up. So I bought a Kindle. I like it a lot. It is not a love affair in the way that beautiful real books are with their sometime gorgeous fonts and covers and they make their own odd Kindle mistakes like spacing problems that drive me nuts. BUT, when I run out of a book and need one to get me through the night, I have one instantly. I have now read about a dozen and a half books on Kindle (I was an early adapter so have the first one) and am enjoying it as an addition but never a substitute for real books. Unlike you, Tony, I am kind to my books. Laughed at your taking the covers off so you could wreck the book and not the jacket. Oh and jacket ART. I really miss that on a Kindle.

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