Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Why I Asked For, And Got, A Kindle For Christmas

It was the only item on my Christmas list, and it was underlined three times, and Santa, bless his heart, got the message.  I have my own Kindle now, in its leather-like case with a magnetic clasp that closes with a satisfying flop.

Why a Kindle, when I am not a Kindle type?  I wasn't an electronic typewriter type, either, yet became addicted and immediately started composing as if it had been plugged directly into my brain.  Nor was I a computer type, or a laptop type at first.   For all I know, I may be an Ipad, Iphone, and Ibrain type, too.  I just don't know it yet.

But there are more substantive reasons than the charms of new technology for my desire to own an e-reader:  blizzards and relapses.  In my admittedly cosseted existence, I count as a disaster being stuck in a blizzard, or in a CFS relapse, without a stack of books beside me.  Unfortunately, in the last seven years in Vermont, I have often been stuck without a book to read.

Each of the villages around here has, along with its adorable white-spired Congregational church, an equally adorable but tiny library on the town green.  These are lovely white-painted frame buildings with tall multi-paned windows  through which the clear winter sun shines on the wide pine floor boards, the antique card catalogs, and the sparse book collection, in which the works of Danielle Steel are generously represented.  Not that I wouldn't, if driven to it by the hazards of weather and CFS, actually read one of Danielle's books--if I could only get to a library when it was open.  Like the post offices and town dumps around here, libraries have charmingly erratic schedules, never the same two days in a row, never open when you need them.

The independent bookstore forty-five minutes from my house (practically next door, in Vermont terms), stays open from dawn to dusk, seven days a week.  It is the cynosure of the region.  You can get lost in its narrow hallways and book-lined nooks until the aroma of Green Mountain coffee draws you out of the labyrinth and into the land of panini made with local goat cheese.  As well as books, you can buy children's toys here, scrumptious blank diaries and quirky jewelry.  And you can listen to speakers about causes dear to a Vermonter's heart.

Alas, much though I love this place, it does not entirely satisfy my book needs.  The writers I most like to read--Evelyn Waugh, Iris Murdoch, P.G. Wodehouse, Anthony Trollope--are not in fashion, are represented by a single or at most two volumes that I have unfortunately already read.  I don't know this for a fact, but I suspect that 90% of the books on the shelves were published after 1990.  I do not blame the store for this.  As we all know, independent booksellers have to bend with the prevailing winds to survive.

Hence my Kindle.  It's easy on the eyes and on the hand.  The books in e-form are cheaper than their paper counterparts, and available at all hours in case of blizzard or relapse.  Many of the books whose copyrights have expired--the Murdochs, Trollopes, et al.--are free.  And they don't take up space on my groaning bookshelves.

I hope my owning a Kindle doesn't make me a traitor to good writing and reading.  This gizmo gives me access to out-of-print books that I would otherwise not be able to read, just as Gutenberg's invention made it possible for a person to have her very own bible under her own roof, one that she could light a candle and read if the wind woke her up in the middle of the night. 

Last night, with the temperature near zero, the coyotes were feeling frisky.  Awakened by their unearthly chorus I fired up my Kindle, and read myself back to sleep.

14 comments :

  1. Welcome to the world of e-readers. I'm hooked!

    And yes, you shouldn't have to pay for any of the Gutenberg Project books - you can download them directly rather than through Amazon. And did you know that some libraries are now doing e-book loans? I'm about to try them out - having re-activated my library membership yesterday.

    Also, your Kindle is probably lighter than a book.

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  2. Keep it charged just in case of that unexpected blizzard/outage!

    I got a Nook this year. I wanted it for the Netflix account. That and web browsing from the couch while my son plays on the floor (I don't have a laptop).

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  3. I love my kindle, and so do my wrists when I read in bed with one hand!

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  4. Mali, it's funny--when I used the example of the Gutenberg bible, I had completely forgotten about the name of the Gutenberg Project. Thanks for reminding me!

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  5. Bridgett, forgive my ignorance, but what is a Nook? (Sounds cozy.)

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  6. Jaimie, not to mention not having to fuss with bookmarks.

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  7. Ah, a Nook is the kindle for Barnes and Noble. Same sort of thing, a book-centric flat tablet. Mine's like a flat book-centric laptop. Or like a smart phone without the phone. But bigger.

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  8. I also have a Nook and I do like it a lot, but still prefer paper books. I tend to use the Nook as a tablet more than a book, but am reading two books on it now.

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  9. Oh, I am so out of it! Thanks to Bridgett, I know what a Nook is, but what do you mean by "tablet," Dona?

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  10. I too received a Kindle for the holidays. Although I had not asked for a Kindle and didn't even know I wanted one I found myself enjoying it until I realized to my horror that it comes loaded with what are euphemistically called 'Special Offers'. In other words the default screen saver, which you can not alter, is a series of rotating ads for things liks teeth-whitening; the same ads appear as a banner on the bottom of the home screen. The only way to opt out of these ads is to pay Amazon $40 so I have now ransomed my device from its corporate sponsors. I find this an incredibly troubling incident: I now have to pay not to be exposed to ads on a device that I allegedly own.

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  11. Elizabeth, I agree. It's disgusting! But I'm now reading Trollope for free, so I'm inclined to feel less put-upon.

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  12. Sigh. It is indeed a classic Faustian bargain. On a more cheerful note - I'm dying to know where you are finding free Trollope and Murdoch!

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  13. Go to the Kindle store, type @Anthony Trollope (for instance), and ALL his works will come up, priced at $00.00

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