August 10, 2014

To e or not to e?

      Ah, the feeling of a nice paperback in your hands. Paper is elemental and you can turn the pages slowly to reveal the next step in the journey of the printed word. You can feel the dimensions of it, the heft of the heavy paper pages and the sensation when you close it. You can check to see where your bookmark has landed and know so many things. You can see at a glance if you are only halfway, or nearly at the end and you can savor the rest for one more reading. You can study the cover art and think about what you just read. You can  tuck it onto a shelf with others and see your collection lining the walls before you.
      Or perhaps, your screen glows softly in the darkness. The print is exactly the size and font you like so you don't have to strain your eyes. You can read in total darkness if you like. The next page pops up with only the slightest touch of your finger. The e-reader calculates your progress through the story and estimates how long it will take until you read the words The End. It fits neatly in the palm of your hand and into almost any handbag. If you don't have your reader on you and get caught in a waiting room almost anywhere, you can pull out your phone and a free app syncs you right to where you were in the story. It's as if your books are always with you. As soon as you finish one, that delightful little gadget shows you many other books you might love even more. In seconds you can have another with the words glowing invitingly before you.
      Reading. It's is clear to me that the rules have changed. It is no longer simply a question of if the book is good, well-written and enjoyable. Now it's also about how you read it. I get asked often, these days, how I read. The question has interesting nuances. It is essentially one question but the way the inquiry is phrased makes a big difference. For example, if the question is simply, "Do you prefer a paperback or an e-reader?" that has one meaning. But, if the questions is put to me as, "Do you read on one of those things?" it means something very different.  
      I once had a strong preference: books, on paper, hands down. I got an e-reader and was not entirely impressed. But they got better and I found that both versions, paperback and e-book, have advantages. I like to think I am adaptable. I am living in an ever-changing world of invention. As a child of the fifties I have seen many things evolve around me. I remember a world's fair where, in a Jetson's-like future, we would have a camera phone. Now we do, but I like to clean while on the phone and, on camera, I usually look like I'm cleaning. No one wants to see that. As a result, I prefer to use the phone part and forgo the camera part so, yeah, I have adapted to that.
      So it is with my reading. Most of the reading I do lately is research. Many older books and research materials are not available in electronic form. This is when I have a real book in my hands. If it's a novel, or I am rereading one of my books for a sequel, for example, I use an e-reader.
      So when asked, I have found that, for me, the best answer is: Sometimes I like to use a pencil to write and others a pen and still others a keyboard. It all depends on what I have to say.
      So I ask you, gentle reader, how do you read?