Shannon Dittemore

May17th

3 Comments

So, I have a Kindle. It’s the old one–the first generation, I think. Though, in the spirit of transparency, you should know that I haven’t followed the trend closely.

My mother, however, has. She totes her e-reader everywhere and rightfully so. She loves it. Has more books downloaded to it than the two of us could read in a decade (and that’s saying a lot). She recently upgraded to the new Kindle and gave me her old one.

I am incredibly grateful. I’ve made some writerly friends and I’d like to read their work, but many of them are signed with e-publishers and I hate reading books off my computer. The Kindle gives me a beautiful way around that problem.

Confession: After Mom gave it to me, the Kindle sat on my desk, in its red leather case, for three days solid before I touched it. I was flat out intimidated by the thing. There’s the Kindle itself, the case, the downloaded instruction manual, the charger, the emergency battery pack, and the Amazon.com login info. There’s an on button, a whisper-net switch, and headphones for audio books (blah). There’s the online book storage, Kindle storage, and USB storage. Not to mention the Kindle email and one-click ordering instructions.

I just wanna read a book, people!

But, two things kept me interested in mastering this crazy device: The e-books I’d be able to read, and the possible cash savings.

Once I got the hang of it and packed away the unnecessary accessories, excitement kicked in. Amazon has actually created a pretty user-friendly device and I was giddy. The sheer volume of books at my finger-tips was intoxicating. I’ll never be bookless again! I jumped on Amazon and ordered a handful to get me started and began toting the Kindle with me everywhere.

But, alas.

I just don’t love it. I’ve yet to finish a book on the Kindle. In fact, mostly, it’s confused me.

Normally, when I have a book to read, I’m rabid about it. I devour it. I steal time to read it, sneaking in paragraphs and chapters while I sit at t-ball games or wait for my son to climb into the car after school. I think about it when I’m making dinner or folding laundry. I all but silence my children’s cartoons so I can read in peace. I dog-ear the pages proudly. Like bread crumbs, they help me find my way back through the book for a second and third read. I don’t even mind when I drip iced tea on the pages or when my daughter mistakes a novel for a coloring book.

These things mark the book as mine. They endear it to me. The chaos of my life gets written on the book just as the book gets engraved on my heart and mind.

There’s something momentous about letting an author’s words into your life. It’s intimate. It’s personal. It’s mind-altering. And for the day or two it takes me to fly through the pages, a book has the potential to wedge itself into my psyche and change the way I think.

Not every book has that power. Not every book lives up to that potential, but I never select a book without hoping. Without crossing my fingers and praying that the joint endeavor of storytelling and marketing has created something that will stay with me forever.

And when the magic happens, I want a souvenir of our time together. I want to place it on my shelf next to the other adventures I’ve embarked on. Like a photo album, the tattered cover or spine of a book acts as a way to relive the journey without having to even open the pages.

Just a glance at my bookshelf makes me smile. So many far off lands. So many cultures and characters. Villians and heroes. Beaches and deserts. Castles and swamps. Magic and Divinity.

My bookshelf tells stories.

And while that sleek little Kindle is handy, it has yet to woo me. It opens worlds to me, but it doesn’t receive mine. There’s no room for my reality to imprint on the novels hidden on its many storage devices. I can electronically bookmark pages, but I can’t dog-ear. I can download a new hardback, but I can’t run my fingers over the artwork on the cover.

I read in fear. Fear that the batteries will die, fear that I’ll leave it on my car seat in the sunlight. And I’m downright paranoid that a dripping beverage or a crayon-weilding one-year-old will bring on the premature death of this exceptionally designed device.

And so you know what? My insatiable appetite seems a lot more like an upset stomach. Instead of ravenous excitement at the new book sitting on the table, I’m irritated that I’ve still got a handful of books to get through on the Kindle before I can get back to my bookstore trawling, paper sniffing, dog-ear preferring, books-on-paper addiction.

And, while I realize that this post might place me in the same category as those still pounding away on their typewriters, please don’t judge me too harshly. I’m going to keep the Kindle handy. I’m going to try to love it, but I doubt I’ll ever upgrade. The term “upgrade” is a bit of a misnomer in any case.

Words on paper.

Doesn’t get much better than that.

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3 Comments

  • Comment by Lacey — May 18, 2010 @ 9:21 am

    I do not have the Kindle, but I feel the same exact way when I look at my book shelf! There are so many places I have been, excitment that I’ve seen, and tears I’ve shed. There is something about holding a book in your hands, feeling the pages slip through your fingers, that technology cannot replicate.

  • Comment by Karen Luke — May 18, 2010 @ 3:56 pm

    I love books also… but storage does become a problem…having seen your overflowing bookcases my first thought is … you really NEED to fall in love with the Kindle…Love Mom

  • Comment by Shan — May 18, 2010 @ 4:03 pm

    Mom – And that’s nothing. The attic is full of boxes. All books. If I could, I’d cover the walls with bookcases. Talk about a happy camper!

    Lacey – You say it perfectly! Technology is awesome, but there are some things it just cannot replicate!

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