On January 1, 2009, I wrote the following:
"Mom, from whom I inherited my Luddite tendencies, recently saw the electronic book at Barnes and Noble and is very excited about it. Huh? This is a woman who fears her computer (which my sister and I bullied her into buying) and is terrified that one wrong click will destroy the thing. But when the electronic books come down in price, she plans on buying one. She has lots of good reasons for this act of heresy, but honestly, I’m not sure what’s gotten into her.
"I see these electronic books as a sign of the coming apocalypse. Books are living things made of paper, glue, thread, boards, cloth, and ink. I love holding them, opening them, smelling them, creating them. I love surrounding myself with them. I love libraries. I love the sound of a new binding cracking and the soft, susurrous whisper of pages turning.
"Pixels and buttons do not give the same sensory satisfaction. They are cold and … electronic. The words on the screen have no permanence, no life. Even George is a tad uncertain about them—he has as many books as I do. I declare, with grave certainty and much kicking and screaming, that I will never, ever have an electronic book.
"I have to draw the line somewhere. Consider it drawn."
I guess it's time to get out my eraser...
'cause that line done been crossed!
What, you might ask, made me skip merrily over that line? Because merrily I did skip, with a zippity doo-da, zippity aye, into Nook Tablet ownership.
First, the staging consultants who transformed our house into a model home for sale insisted that at least two-thirds of the books on our shelves be boxed up and moved out. Given that eight years ago, the nice military movers hauled 109 boxes of books into our house, and given that in the eight years since then, we added lots of books, this task was overwhelming. As we undertook the back-breaking effort, a little, tiny voice in my head said,
"A Nook doesn't weigh this much."
Second, I've been reading too much about the minimalist movement. While my closet is mostly minimalist, I'm nowhere near ditching all but a hundred items from my home, but I found myself questioning whether or not I really needed all of the hardcover Anne Perry Inspector Monk mysteries, four copies of Pride and Prejudice, and a pile of mass-market paperbacks that I'll never read again. Of course some books are far too precious to ever donate to the library, but still....
Third, you can get magazine subscriptions on the Nook. Magazines are fun to read, but they multiply like dust bunnies in my house, filling shelves, closet floors, and basement boxes with dead trees.
And they are heavy. Oh. My. God. They are heavy.
Fourth, the Nook Tablet is more than an ebook reader. I can get email on it. I can surf the internet. I can watch movies on long trips. I can buy apps for it that do things I don't even know about yet. Most importantly, I can get instant new-book gratification anywhere there's wi-fi, any time, day or night. If I finish reading a book at 1:00AM and want to find a new one, I can buy it from the comfort of my own bed.
Do I need all these things? That would be a big, fat No.
Are they handy and fun to have? Well, yes. Yes, they are.
Now that I've had my Nook for a few weeks, I can say that the sensory vacuum I feared is mostly true. The cover I bought makes my tablet feel sort of like a book, but the fake electronic page-turning sound doesn't come close to the susurrus whisper of paper sliding on paper. There's no smell I can detect, except that of the faux leather cover, which reminds me more of luggage than books.
Perhaps that's not such a badly scented metaphor, however, given that books take you places.
There is an advantage with pricing for older classics in electronic form. A few months ago, after reading the National Geographic article on the King James Version of the Bible, I reached for my copy, only to find that pieces were falling off of it. A trip to Barnes and Noble revealed that a new print copy would cost me more than $70. Since we were buying a new house and I already had about ten different Bibles on my shelves, that seemed excessive. The first book I loaded on my Nook was the KJV...for a mere $4.99. Bargain Bible prices are no reason to buy an electronic reader, but I'm happy that I got to read Luke 2 as it should be read on Christmas Day.
On a MUCH lighter note, I'm catching up on Jasper Fforde's recent addition to the Thursday Next books, which always make me laugh.
So the apocalypse is at hand: Susan has a Nook, a mouthful of humble pie, and a brand new monkey on her back.
But I prefer to think of it as a blue bird on my shoulder.
Zippity doo-da, zippity aye.