From 2004 to 2009, I spent most of my evening hours reading. I owned no tv to distract me. At first it was mostly theology and philosophy… until I got a taste for novels. I devoured the Dickens canon within a year. Next I dove into culture and came out a fiery neo-Luddite. Then I got into history, economics, and science. I left my fundamentalism behind and embraced evolution. Every book I read made an impact on how I thought and viewed the world.
I couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t spend their evenings reading — who wants to stare at a tv when you can have your life changed every day?
I was a compulsive book buyer for years, but recently I’ve found the joys of the local library. They have far more books in the county than I’d be able to own and — this I find amazing — it’s free, unless you count those pesky late fines. Still, I find two disadvantages to the library system: (1) you’re not allowed to write in them and (2) you only have them for a few weeks.
Here’s my confession: I write in library books. I can’t stop myself. But don’t worry Mrs. Librarian, I always use light pencil and I erase all traces of my graffiti. I don’t do it just for the thrill, though — I mark quotes. When I finish the book, I find the quotes, type them out, and erase my markings.
I don’t want to believe it’s just a loaned book. I like books that sit around for months and beg to be picked up and read. I don’t want to give them back in 7 or 14 days. And even though I became quick friends with the online renewal system, it only lets me renew three times (they set limits because of greedy people like me).
So the library doesn’t work for books I want to write in and have on hand for a long time. So should I buy them?
I used to. But unless it’s a book I’m extremely excited about, I’ve found myself not wanting to buy a paper version, even though I love paper books. They’re expensive, heavy, easily ruined, and take up a lot of space.
The truth is, I want a good e-reader. It’s only a matter of time before one exists. I’ve owned two editions of the Kindle, but sold them both. The terrible interface and control mechanisms (a joystick and noisy page turning button) ruined the experience. The iPad isn’t The One either — the screen is backlit and there isn’t a great way of marking books. The irony is using the Kindle app on the iPad is better than the Kindle itself.
I used to hate the idea of e-books. I thought paper was far superior and that it wouldn’t really catch on. That was naive. Eventually paper books will go the way of scrolls and stone tablets — of interest to collectors, but not to the rest of us. E-book readers (either as separate devices or integrated into mobile devices) will fit much better into our lifestyles and we’ll gradually move to them in the coming decades.
I think most of us know this intuitively as we watch how technology and culture is progressing. This isn’t a bad thing; it’s just different. There will be advantages and disadvantages, just like any technological revolution.
I’m still waiting to meet a good e-book reader. My compulsive book buying has been put on hold until I can buy them digitally to read on a device that I feel is a worthy alternative to a paper book.
And in the meantime, I’ll be a loyal — if not ideal — visitor to my local library.