The carcasses of Baldwin, Hurston, and a number of other authors take up space where other things should be: a jewelry box moved to the side to make room for a novel, toiletries relegated to a Ziploc bag so that the top of my dresser can be used to stack the memoirs of Elizabeth Gilbert and Ben Ryder Howe. I like to tell myself that books are an investment, but really I just like having them around. Who needs groceries or bills paid when there are precious books to buy?
I inherited bibliophilia from my grandparents. My grandfather is an old-school Baptist preacher who is known for spending more money on his books that his clothing, and my grandmother was a librarian, so it goes without saying that I’ve spent a good portion of my life surrounded by books. Like my grandfather, I cannot pass a bookstore or library without going in and cracking one open. I love the way they feel, I love the way they smell, and most of all, I love being able to lose myself briefly in someone else’s story. This little habit of mine is getting in the way of some things, however, like being able to move from apartment to apartment without having to haul a heavy collection of books. In the spirit of moving ahead in this technological world, (and at the urging of my tech savvy boyfriend), I have decided that there is a way to solve my (mostly good) problem of too many books.
I am buying a Kindle.
A Kindle? Yes, a Kindle. It’s a magic bullet that will allow me to carry hundreds of tomes at a time in one slim, lightweight package. I can safely read Zane’s Sex Chronicles on the Metro without the judgmental eyes of other passengers boring into me. I can banish the thought of mildew or time destroying the pages of my favorite books. Admittedly, I am old school. In college I had a record player because I needed something to play my mom’s old vinyl on, and it was an interesting conversation piece. New technology is hard for me to get accustomed to and books have been the last frontier for me, but I am excited about making the switch. I think it’ll be a good thing.
E-readers are becoming a significant big part of the publishing landscape, as is evidenced by the astronomical growth of the Kindle, the iPad, the Xoom, the Nook, and other devices. According to Gartner Research, an IT research firm, e-reader sales are expected to reach 11 million this year, up from 3.3 million sold in 2009 and 6.6 million sold in 20101. I’ll be buyer number 201,094, because I am ready to join the wave of people dipping into something new.
Still, a part of me is sad. As an avid reader, I relish the feeling of excitement I get when I open a book, it’s like a new hand-held adventure is unfolding before me. With the right book in hand you are transformed into a revolutionary (Malcolm X), a mystic (Toni Morrison), an intellectual (W.E.B. DuBois), or just a funny person (Langston Hughes). I wonder if that beautiful magic will be replicated with the push of the ‘on’ button.
My dream as a small girl was to have my own in-home library, with a rolling ladder that I could slide back and forth on to find the books at the uppermost shelves (clearly I was fond ‘Reading Rainbow’). I still want that for myself, but I also know that lugging my library is not feasible right now, so that dream will just have to wait.
So good people, would you purchase an e-reader for yourself, or do you prefer to hold your reading material? Do you think these devices are even worth the money or trouble? What implications do you think this has for writers?