I feel like a traitor.
Books have been my longest and most stable friendship. I remember reading stories before bed and then staying up late, paging through picture books. When I was still very young, Mom read novels and chapter books out loud to us. My early childhood is marked with weekly visits to story time at the library. One year, during my homeschooled middle school time when we kept track of such things, I read over 100 books. In one year. I can still read in the car without getting sick. The year we unpacked my parents’ collection of sci-fi and fantasy paperbacks was the year I stopped hoping to have been adopted or switched at birth – clearly these people are related to me if they can invest in bookshelves of Anne McCaffrey novels.
My early sense of self was appropriated from Ramona Quimby and Laura Ingalls. I yearned for a visit to Narnia and the Wump World and to have a special place like Terabithia. But the most important memory I have of books is muscle memory – the coordination needed to hold a book in one hand, turning the dry, cheap pages of a paperback without tearing them.
Which is why I loved to hate on e-readers and tablets.
That was in the past.
I got a smart phone.
It was time to update my phone. My plan still did not include text messaging and my phone was an ancient model without a Qwerty keyboard. I took the plunge and downloaded the appropriate apps and adjusted for a few months.
Then my husband foolishly bought me a Roku, and the next step was taken.
See, I already have a Netflix account, but my Roku came with a free trial of Amazon Prime. I realized I was a perfect candidate for a cloud movie collection since I hate wires and don’t have a DVD player hooked up. I no longer even have to connect my laptop to the TV to play a movie. Another step was taken.
The first movie I bought came with a free sample of the novel on which it was based.
Then I realized that I suddenly and desperately needed to read Divergent.
And I didn’t want to drive to the bookstore or wait for the book to be shipped.
And I’m cheap and the Kindle version was heavily discounted.
And now I have a Kindle app on my phone and I have read more in the past 3 months than in the last year.
Now when I look at “real” books I feel guilty. I hate to love my e-books.
My guilt was made worse the other night when I took my niece on her first trip to the library. I told her all about the library in advance, describing the mountains of books that they have. She reads a lot at home but for some reason she just has not made it to Mecca in the past two and a half years that she has been on this earth.
There are toys in the children’s section at LPL so she was understandably distracted by those, but once we focused on the board books she delved right in. While she browsed and picked I made certain to pick out a few “big kid” books too. Older picture books can have sturdier paper; safer for her rough movements.
I have not tried to buy any kids e-books for my niece to read, but I have downloaded a few freebies. Her favorite is a simplistic story with cartoon illustrations and a hide-and-seek theme. This underlines the problem with the e-reader. Cheap, free “books” are overflowing the marketplace making selection of quality material challenging and time consuming. This book is great for what I use it for – an easy distraction and a vehicle to prompt verbal skills and the concept of prediction. It’s not the best example of predictive text. It does no more to promote the use of prepositions than There’s a Wocket in my Pocket and it’s not has fun as the real life games and songs that we know can do the same thing. The illustrations are uninspiring. The kid just likes shat she can swipe the page with her finger. Since I’m pretty sure she won’t be attending a Waldorf school, I’m not really worried about her ability to use technology. I don’t think a digital book is an essential part of her personal library.
Am I missing something when I read books on my phone instead of buying the paper version? Since I’m mostly reading dystopian YA trilogies, probably not. It’s brain candy. I don’t count it as “screen time” for myself because hey, I’m READING, and I know that people who read are smarter. I like the convenience of always having my book and never having to hunt down a bookmark or (gasp) damage a book’s spine because no bookmarks are handy. I can read at lunch and I can turn pages with one hand. As an avid bibliophile and speed-reader, I don’t need to drink in the paper or cover; there are no illustrations in the books I read and I probably imagine them better than some underpaid artist who didn’t really read the book could come up with anyhow. The thing I am missing is my desire to beat everyone I know over the head with my latest favorite book lend graciously with threat of death if unreturned a cute “this book belongs to” sticker on the inside. I wish I could lend my e-books to my friends and family they way I do with my “real” books.
I guess that’s not really my loss, is it?