By Meghan B
The other day I was rudely awakened by the sound of a downpour of rain coming in through my open bedroom window. In the resulting scramble to get it closed, I nearly killed myself by running straight into some of the teetering stacks of books and magazines that were piled on the floor. Down tumbled paperbacks and hardcovers, my bare feet sliding under the glossy magazine covers. Cursing, I slammed the window closed and surveyed the damage around my ankles. It was 3am and the last thing I wanted to do was rebuild the precarious piles my books had stood in.
A scary, foreign thought entered my mind. "Seriously, why don't you just get an e-reader already?" the traitorous voice said. As I looked down at the literary carnage at my feet, I couldn't help but start to agree with the evil, demon voice born from bruised toes and torn pages.
I always said I would never get an e-reader. The unnatural technology of e-ink, of Kindles and Nooks, was at odds with my book-loving ways. They didn't have the wonderful fresh smell of new books, or the more rich aroma of older tomes. They weren't tactile. Reading a book is the most natural thing in my life. Holding a thin hunk of plastic instead? Not so much. You can't cuddle up in bed with an e-reader, you can't take it in the bath. You can't even loan it to a friend and then spend a solid month calling them to ask for it's return. E-readers lacked souls.
I am by no means a luddite (I have my iPhone basically grafted to my hand) but there was something about e-readers that turned my stomach and made me feel uneasy. This was the future of books? All those beautiful paper books replaced by sad gray tablets? I railed against them and swore never to purchase one, but at 3am the prospect of having one neat machine to keep hundreds of books in it seemed like a good idea.
At first, I blamed it on sleep deprivation. The raving thoughts of a lunatic at 3am. An e-reader? Me? The consummate book collector? I grew up and libraries and bookstores. My first job was in a library. I worked in a bookstore for many years. I felt like I was betraying some kind of religious dogma. An e-reader? Me?
I've been researching the machines and I'm not yet sold. Impressive technology, something straight out of a sci-fi novel, yet still lacking warmth and soul. I slowly tried to understand them. I downloaded e-reader aps for my iPhone and then nearly had an aneurysm trying to read on them. I couldn't get over the loss of turning pages.
In my quest for understanding, there were lunch hours spent at Barnes & Noble trying to get used to the Nook. There were trips to Target that involved glancing worriedly at the Kindle on display. As I went deeper down the rabbit hole, I found myself appalled at the technology. I actually swore out loud when I read you could not loan e-books, even if you had bought them. The rules around e-books were increasingly Draconian. Amazon could delete them from your device (like they did with 1984 in 2010 after a copywrite issue) or the publishers could jack up the price to nearly what a paper book cost.
I have shelved my ideas for getting an e-reader for now. The technology isn't there yet, as far as I'm concerned. The idealized version of e-readers that sci-fi has given me, like the Primer in Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age or the Guide from Douglas Adam's seminal Hitchhicker's series, are still very far away. One day I'll be ready for an e-reader... for now you can pry my paperbacks out of my cold dead hands. I'll just have to deal with bruises on my toes.