It took me awhile to get the hang of the Kindle.
The library was my weekly house of worship. When I entered the library, I scanned the new freshly minted published book section. When I looked at the picture of the author I felt their voice. The clean crisp unblemished pages felt virginal. The beauty of the print caught my interest. Please read me. A book was an extension of my hand, carried on all my journeys. I felt amputated without a novel when I waited in line, at a doctor’ office visit, or the interval before the play begins. I never watch trailer previews for movies. A book takes the edge off my inpatient wait for movies to begin. My one caveat was that I wouldn’t read anything longer than 500 pages due to the weight. So that left most of Stephen King’s work canon inaccessible.
When all that was available was a hard back stained, dog eared, and smudged copy of a war horse “The Great Gatsby”, I ignored the flaws. I was comforted by the previous borrower’s fingerprints. Paperbacks at the library were substandard. They didn’t have the strength to stand up to repeated viewings. But that they were the only way to read an out of print follow up to Judith Guest’s “Ordinary People.”
I was skeptical when The Kindle surfaced. I remember asking “Was it difficult to get used to?”
The response was “Not at all. It’s so light. I can download tons of books. I never go to the library. There is always something waiting in the que for me to dig into.”
So, I took the plunge. After registering with Amazon, I gave my soul to the new technology. The black screen comes to life. Gore Vidal’s dense historical fictions had never been touched. I downloaded “Burr”. My eyes adjust to the back light. I stumble to move from page to page. I find it disconcerting that there are no page numbers. A location number is visible and the number of hours and minutes to complete the book pops into view. I wonder how they know how fast I can read. Photos are blurry. Oh, damn I want to go back to another chapter. I press a button that flips me back but then I can’t easily get to where I left off. That’s no fun. When I shut it off and come back later that day it remembers where I was. No need for bookmarks anymore. I am enjoying the focus. With a physical book I can sometimes get distracted. The combination of light and print is becoming ingrown.
I learn how to request e-books from the library and download through my computer. I don’t quite understand how they’ll retrieve my book or fine me based on the three-week due date. When I request the hot new bestsellers like “Gone Girl” that wait list is over 200. I can be patient because I always have at least ten books lined up.
The percent completion can be deceiving when it’s non-fiction with glossaries, footnotes, and an index. I have found that I have finished the book at 70%.
The period of adjustment is a success. I am unburdened by book weight. I don’t stress about what the next read will be. My taste has expanded to include non-fiction, memoirs, and biographies. Remembrance of Things Past no longer freaks me out. I don’t scurry away from Jonathan Franzen epics. I wouldn’t have grappled with Joan Didion in the past.
I miss the author’s face. I can no longer look at the cover and jacket for hints about what is coming. Without feeling the book, it can be difficult to know if it will be the correct fit with my sensibilities. The community library feel is gone. I force myself to visit if I need a New York Times editorial page fix. With the elimination of book stores it is impossible to discover authors without using the internet. I don’t trust reader reviews on the internet.
My addiction to kindle is impenetrable. My brain can’t grasp the concept of a physical book. When I touch a book I only feel grime. My hands hurt as I try turning pages. My eyes hurt. Joy is gone. The kindle sterilized environment is my bargain with Satan.