Tuesday, July 27, 2010

a, b, c, d, ebook

I downloaded my first ebook, Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks. I have wanted to read it since I heard about it, and had saved a spot for it on my Amazon list. And then . . . I packed up about twenty boxes of books. And then . . . a few weeks later I started to unpack them, as well as go through my mom's already quite extensive book collection, trying to make room for mine, praying I could find at least a duplicate or two to cull. I'm not even mentioning my daughter's two bookcases full of classic children's books that she has yet to really dive into, as she learns to read.

So the prospect of buying another book seemed slim. And this is hard for me. Like the rest of my family, I am a bibliophile. When my parents divorced, I made sure that my childhood books (and others I enjoyed from their collections) didn't get lost or tossed in the shuffle of the split. Many years later, when my dad died, I was sure to preserve some of his best and beloved books—basically, anything my brother didn't want, I lugged back to New York, where I was then living,  with me. You don't throw away a book.

I have tried over the years to prune and thin my collection. I had a favorite used book store I used to frequent outside of D.C., where you could bring in books for trade. Of course I usually ended up walking out with quite a few books as well. Books have always been my way to learn—a new language, a current enthusiasm (the Tudors, herbs, mythology). Books allow me to immerse myself in a particular author or series (Jane Austen, Sharon Kay Penman, Brother Cadfael). This favorite book store was a great help in that regard, and I still have stacks of pet interests acquired from there, ready, whenever I am.

Friends from time to time have suggested different ebook readers, but I have always resisted. I did download a free app, Stanza, to my iPhone, but even with its ability to access plenty of the classics, thanks to Project Gutenberg, I just couldn't picture myself late at night reading a book on my iPhone. Email, facebook updates, sure. But not a few chapters of anything. But that has all changed with the iPad. Somewhere in size between a paperback and a magazine, the iPad is the perfect venue for a neophyte e-reader. The free iBooks app came with Winnie the Pooh (savvy Apple). I downloaded a Beatrix Potter read-along book for my daughter. She loves it. But I was still resistant. Until it occurred to me one evening that I didn't have to wait for the Christie book to go paperback, I could download it right away. Instant e-gratification. And it was. First a sample, 38 pages worth, for me to dip my toe in the e-water. And when I decided I had to read more, well—a few clicks and I did.

For those of you who have been doing this for ages, this probably seems silly, my trepidation, even quaint. But books have always been more than just something I read. They are possessions, inheritance, memorabilia. But I am open to new things. And since I just started watching The Pillars of the Earth on cable the other night, another book I have always wanted to read but hadn't gotten around to purchasing yet, it occurred to me . . . that I will be stacking up e-books on my virtual bookshelves, too.
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