I love books...the smell of books, the feel of books. I love holding a book in my hands, especially a new one with a pristine cover. I love fanning the pages of a new book and inhaling. There's nothing quite like the excitement of getting a new book and the anticipation of sitting down to read it. And we won't even talk about opening a box containing more than one new book and the delicious agony of trying to decide which one to start first...or the quiet thrill of walking into a bookstore. Not everyone shares this love affair, but those of you who are kindred souls...you know exactly what I mean.
Because I love the physical book so much, I wasn't convinced an e-reader would ever be a good fit for me. But I recently received a Kindle from my eldest child as a gift. The first book I downloaded was Bram Stoker's Dracula. It was free and, as I had never read it, I figured it was as good a place as any to take the Kindle out for a test drive. I'm not an electronic gadget type of person, but it was easy to set up and easy to use...even for me. There are a lot of features I haven't used yet, but I expect learning will be fun.
Because the font size can be changed, a simple adjustment enabled me to read without as much eye strain, and even without reading glasses. I don't know why, but I think I was able to read faster. Perhaps it only seemed faster because I was able to read for a more sustained period of time. Once accustomed to the feel of the Kindle in my hands, and getting lost in the story, I forgot I wasn't reading a glue and paper book. The sensation of being transported was every bit the same.
On the second day, I sat outside on the patio, and found it very easy to read in bright sunlight. Like a paper book, however, care must be taken. Outside the birds were chirping, the sun was shining, there was a breeze. Suddenly the dog jumped the fence and ran down the street. I put the Kindle on the deck chair and ran after him. I forgot about it; it rained. Early the next morning, I let the dog back out on the patio and to my horror I saw my Kindle still on the chair, covered with drops of rain from the night before. I was lucky. I figure that since its designers knew the device would be read outside, at places like the beach, they tried to make it somewhat impervious to weather. I am grateful to them for that, but it was a wake-up call. Instead of losing one book to the elements, it could have been a very expensive mistake. (Especially since I would never have admitted the blunder to my son; he'd have been so disappointed. I would have been forced to buy another Kindle to take its place rather than "come clean" and my secret would have been carried on my guilty conscience to my grave.)
I have since downloaded many more free titles by the likes of G.K. Chesterton, Louisa May Alcott, Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, P.G. Wodehouse, and E.L. Voynich. Within seconds, I can increase my classics library ten-fold without spending a dime. And since the Kindle is so light and easy to carry, I always have it with me and always have something really good to read, just in case...like a literary diabetic who has to keep blood sugar levels stable. But, as much as I have found a new thing to love, I have also come to the firm belief that the physical book will remain alive and well.
Electronic readers have their own limitations. For instance, I miss the dust jackets. Let's be honest. I will be making a trip to Barnes & Noble to purchase Medium Raw in hardback, not the least reason being the delicious picture of Anthony Bourdain on the cover, which I will invariably clutch to my bosom repeatedly. There are many joys in reading. Drooling over a "hot" author is one of them. There is also a satisfaction that comes with shelves groaning under the weight of books. It is the same satisfaction one has in opening the door to a well-stocked pantry: jeweled jars of jams, and pickles, and home-canned tomatoes, and covered bins of pastas and bottles of sauces...lovely vistas of largesse...the comfort that comes with the knowledge that there will be sustenance.
I just purchased my first non-free Kindle book: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. At $9.99 it was hardly a splurge, although it felt like one. It's easy to get used to "free."
I could be wrong, but I do not see the end of the physical book on the horizon. Nevertheless, the Kindle's Welcome Page says, "We hope you'll quickly forget you're reading on an advanced wireless device and instead be transported into that mental realm readers love, where the outside world dissolves, leaving only the auhtor's stories, words, and ideas." That much, it does.