December 1st, 2012

2012 was, for me, the year I discovered the e-reader. What a transformation it was! Little problems, like the awkwardness of keeping a book open without always having to hold it in my hands, and constantly falling asleep with the light on because as I feel myself drifting off I can’t be bothered to reach over and flip the switch, just disappeared. And when I started traveling, I thought I was hooked for life. All decisions about which books to take, not to mention the question of whether lugging around books, plural, is justifiable, knowing that there’s no real way that I’m going to get myself through even one whole book in any given week of travel, let alone three, but being unwilling to commit to any particular one and, anyway, it’s always possible to have a huge reading spurt and in that case, wanting to be prepared. How releasing to carry as many tomes as my heart desires in one wispy little tablet.

Today, though, I’m wavering. Don’t get me wrong; I’ll stand by everything I just said. But now I feel like I need to confess to the things I’ve spent the last months reading. It’s a little embarrassing, but relevant, I think, so here goes. I read the entire Game of Thrones series. Then I read a book by some music critic, who was trying to understand why anyone could possibly like Celine Dion. After that I moved on to a biography of an author I like. Light fare, one might say. Last week, though, with a bit of space in my life, I decided it was finally time to get around to Ulysses. I downloaded it and set in, glad at first that I wouldn’t be hefting the real thing around for the next month. But, did you catch that? There’s the problem. I don’t believe I’ve got the real Ulysses loaded onto my iPad. Not that I don’t trust that I have a correct version of the text, but that, to me, after all these years of putting off reading Joyce, I want the full experience. I want to hold the thing in my hand, dog-ear nice or confusing parts, and be able to write in the margins. And, yes, I know you can make notes and highlight text on an e-reader, but with my handwriting goes the intimacy, which I didn’t notice was missing until I got to this book that I want to really be intimate with.

So now I find myself in a quandary. There’s still so much I like about reading on the iPad. I feel like I could pretty easily find a comfortable balance between the two. I’m worried, though, that if I don’t take a more activist stance, insisting on paper books only, that I’m going to end up being part of the destruction of this thing that I now know I don’t want to live without. Can any of you relate to this? Or are the rest of you just easily accepting this new way of being? The book, after all, is the words, not the object, or so they say.

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