Monday, January 19, 2009

My Longest Love Affair

Okay, I won't kid around after offering up a saucy heading like the one above. My longest love affair has been with books. Ever since I was knee high to a grasshopper, I have loved stories and the books that contained them. Before I could read, I can remember begging my mother to read to me (anybody remember Golden Books? The Poky Little Puppy? and the politically incorrect Little Black Sambo?). And as soon as I could use my eyes to form words on paper, I was off and running, a bookish little boy who couldn't get enough. I tore through all the Oz books, the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, classics like A Wrinkle in Time and more. I read books that I shouldn't have (what's that third grader doing reading Rosemary's Baby? What could possibly interest a sixth grade boy in Diary of a Mad Housewife?).

I have never stopped loving books. For as long as I can remember, I have never NOT been reading one. I'm a true slut, moving restlessly from one to the next, never satisfied, always wanting more. As soon as I put one down, I'm looking for the next in line. I'm insatiable.

I suppose this love affair has a lot to do with why I grew up wanting to tell my own stories, to write my own books. But this isn't so much about me as a writer. It's about me as a reader. Becoming a creator of the same things I love has just been a fringe benefit.

This Christmas, Santa left me something that upped the ante on my love affair, but left me wondering if I've been unfaithful. See, what I got was an Amazon Kindle. The Kindle is probably one of the most talked about e-book readers of our time, being talked about all over the Internet and even given the blessing of not the Pope, but someone even more important (and perhaps, divine): Oprah. It's a cool little white wedge, about the height and width of a mass market paperback, with the thickness of maybe a pencil. It makes indulging my habit even easier, since its display is very similar to paper (not at all like reading on a computer screen) and it allows me to adjust the type size to align with my aging eyes. With a touch of a button, I can turn pages, bookmark pages, write notes to myself, look up words, and even use the Internet. Yeah, the cool thing about the Kindle is it lets me connect wirelessly to the 'Net...anywhere, anytime. It's also the dangerous thing for an addict, excuse me, book lover like me. With this wireless connection, I can browse Amazon's books, have a sizable sample sent to me, and purchase books...instantly and with NO waiting. A click and the book is on my Kindle, literally within seconds. And I can store hundreds of books on my Kindle, making me feel good about green and sparing the lives of some trees. And maybe the Kindle will help me cut down on the overflowing, weighty issue of way too many books in our house, when they can all be neatly stored on the Kindle. Or at least many of the ones I buy from here on in...

Okay, I have waxed euphoric enough about my new toy and how it only ratchets about the passion in this decades-old love affair. I know I'm starting to sound like Amazon is paying me. And they're not. It's the other way around. I'm buying even more books than ever; they've made it so easy. They should be giving these things away.

But, you might wonder, what about the feel of a real book...the paper, the glue, the cover, being able to curl up almost anywhere with one? Don't you miss that? Pre-Kindle, I used to think I would. I used to think I could never come over to the side of e-books and that this new type of book delivery would die a quiet death. Who wants to read a book on a screen when a book has been pretty close to a perfect package for centuries? I do. I never thought I'd say that I prefer reading an e-book to a real one, but here I am. Utterly convinced. As I said above, it's easier on the eyes, so I actually read for longer periods. Other than the bathtub or other places where I might get the Kindle wet, I can pretty much read it anywhere and the task is easier than with a paper book because I do not have to flip pages, try to hold it open, or otherwise fuss with it. I think there are some things I'll never get over about loving paper books: the smell of them, the look of them lined up in orderly rows, the thrill of seeing my own name on the cover of one hot off the press, and yes, the ability to read in the bathtub. But these advantages don't outweigh the environmental and ease of use advantages of reading e-books.

Why else would I sit here all morning and write this?

Oh yeah, I wouldn't be the shameless publicity whore I am without plugging myself just once. Almost all of my books are now coming out in print as well as electronically (many are already in Kindle format and on Amazon, just search "Rick R. Reed" in the Kindle store). And I have to say, the Kindle owners I've met are just as much book addicts, er, lovers as I am.

I used to think people who said e-books were the wave of the future were full of it. I don't think so anymore, unless "it" is the truth.

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