Friday, June 17, 2011

E-Readers versus Real Books

Books - a part of my life. I love them. Especially books like this:

My life has changed, in a way I'd never have predicted. I am now the owner of a Kindle. Me! Me, who loves holding onto the past, and who thought that e-readers were only for people who had forgotten how soul-satisfying it is to hold a book, people for whom the tactile part of the reading experience no longer had any meaning. I felt sorry for those people. Deep down sorry. For their ignorance in what they felt was progress, for what they were traitorously losing and destroying without even knowing they were losing or destroying anything.

My sister and her family are to blame, and I am thankful that they helped me to see that it is possible to embrace a new world without losing my grasp on the old one. Thanks, L!

So, I have a Kindle. I can carry around over 3,500 books with me wherever I go - most of which have cost me nothing at all - in my small leather backpack (*note to self for future blog post: leather bags from the Saddleback Leather Company*) - without breaking my back. I still love books; from their smell to the way it feels to turn real pages to the way they look on my shelf. Love them (especially old old ones with deliciously antique bindings).

I have this cover, in chocolate brown. Not the cheapest cover out there, but the light is great - powered by the device itself, and quite comfortable to read with in a completely dark room.

What is it then, about this thin piece of tech?

In a word - power!

The power to have access to the information I need and want, when I need and want it. It's that simple. I am finding that I can get lost in the joy of a really good e-book just as easily (if not more so) as a book with printed pages. What is more important, the information, or its packaging/method of delivery to our brain? A gorgeous and satisfying printed book is, after all, of no lasting, real use whatsoever if it does not contain ideas which have the potential to raise us to a higher level.

Technology is my servant, it does my bidding. I am not its slave. Well, that's what I'm aiming for, anyway. So many times I see people using hand held technology to connect with people and computers in far distant places, while neglecting to interact with the living breathing people right in front of them. I have been guilty of being like this... it feels fun and even exhilarating at the time, but all I was left with in the long term was a feeling of hollowed out emptiness. Not to mention the example I was setting for my children; they don't need much encouragement to fall into this trap so it's important I show the way by modelling responsible behaviour.

It is my opinion that for many people (me included), remaining the master of the various pieces of technology that surround us instead of becoming their slave, will require constant concerted efforts on our part. I do not think it is going too far or being melodramatic to say that constant watchful vigilance is vital to safeguard ourselves and our families from going down the gurgler of 'progression' and losing the link to who we really are and should be.

Some really good books I've read lately:

The Boy Who Drew In The Mud by Zachary Harper
A series of parables/fables for adults and children alike, some in prose, some in poetic form. Magic.

The Muirwood Trilogy by Jeff Wheeler
A fantasy story with a medieval flavour. Very well written, great story, brilliant symbolism. Reading this series has helped me listen more closely and carefully to the whisperings of intuition that come from time to time.

The Little Hunchback Zia by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Classic short tale of a 12 year old hunchback boy who is cast out. Ends happily as you might guess. Makes good bedtime reading for older children (and for adults).

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
A delightful melting pot of brilliantly portrayed contrasting characters in typical Dickensian style. Also highly recommended by my whole family is the recent BBC adaptation of the same name. (We were singing "Qu'est-ce qui passe ici si tard" for weeks, and shuddering delightfully everytime someone sang or whistled the tune)

So many truly good books to chose from! I am trying to become discerning as it is more than possible to waste a lot of time trawling through less than excellent literature. Amazon (and other e-book companies) give away multitudes of free e-books if you can be bothered checking for them regularly. I have been....and have wasted lots of time. As I said, trying to become more discerning. Currently there are over 100 books in my To Read: Fiction folder, and my To Read: Non Fiction folder. All were free, from this page at Amazon which changes daily, so they tell me. A great resource, but beware! Lots of dross amongst the gold, and the sheer number of book available is overwhelming and potentially time wasting.


One last thought: something I miss about holding a real book, beautiful bindings aside, is knowing how far I am through the book by the feel of the weight of pages on each side as I hold it open. It's just not the same looking at a digital percentage figure.