Friday, May 25, 2012

I Have Gone Over to the Dark Side

by Sheila Connolly

All right, I'll confess: I have read an ebook.  On my Nook.  Yes, you may now laugh, you who have already wizarded your way through this unholy labyrinth. I admit itBI'm behind the curve.

Like many people these days, I have mixed feelings about the proliferating technology for reading these days.  I like physical books, and I have the thousands to prove it.  I have always liked books, even before I could read, which was pretty early in my life.

But I have also always loved television.  I was the one who played with the knobs to see what would happen (and then my father would have to come and fiddle around until he fixed it.  HmmBmaybe that's why he would never let me near the record player.)  When my father was no longer part of the household, I was the one in the family who could retrieve a picture from the mess of wavy lines on the screen.

I have stuck to both throughout my life.  I know there were and are those who believe that television is harmful to developing minds.  I disagree, with two caveats: one, that a child spend an equal amount of time outside doing something that involves exercise, and two, that he or she do it with other people, not figures on a screen.

In my distant rosy childhood, the lines between the media were blurred.  In my elementary school, my friends and I would play at recess (yes, outside) by making up episodes for the television shows that we all watched.  Most involved horses, but we also incorporated stereotype: good guys, bad guys and women.  In our stories, the women stayed home and wore dresses.  None of my friends wanted to be stuck playing women.  It was a girls' school. Maybe we were ahead of our time?

My position on ebooks is that we as writers can't stop the critters, so we might as well get used to them.  I bought an ereader when my first estory, "Called Home," was published.  It seemed wrong to me to know that I had a story that was published but I couldn't see it.  So that story was my first purchase for my Nook.

The second was a truly obscure short story written by Herman Melville about the chimney in his house.  I wanted to read it because I was trying to understand the 18th-19th century attitudes toward hearth and home, and Melville took the time to set down his (at great length).  I'm sure this exists in a book somewhere, but I did not have the time or the patience to go find it in print.  My defenses were crumbling.

The final blow came when I was doing research for my next Museum Mystery (currently nameless).  The book revolves around the Philadelphia actor Edwin Forrest who was one of the shining stars of the nineteenth century stage but who is little known today.  In the quarter-century following his death in 1872, many of his colleagues wrote about him in glowing termsBpages and pages of lush Victorian prose, mostly out of print and hard to find.  I could have ordered POD copies (in fact, I did at first) but when confronted with the transcript of the actor's very messy divorce from his actress wife, which ran to over a thousand pages, I threw in the towel and downloaded a copy to the Nook.  No, I haven't read all of it, but I have read parts (the juicy bits, of course).  And now I feel virtuous about all the trees I have spared and all the shelf space I have saved.

But it was not until quite recently that I read a bookBa regular piece of fiction, currently available in bookstores. I survived the adventure, although every time I hit the screen I seem to come up with some command I wasn't looking for.  Or knew existed.  It seems Nook and I needs must become better acquainted for a real relationship to develop.

But I've taken the first step, and the second and the third.  There are more current books waiting on my Nook. Whatever the format, it's still about our words, isn't it?


Dru said...

Watch out...the number of books you download on your Nook will triple in size for every one book you read. Darn those free books.

I do have to say if I'm looking for a scene I read, it's so much easier to search for it with the e-reader than scanning all the pages of a printed book and missing it.

Susan said...

As a former English teacher and current writer, I bought a Kindle three years ago. I love to use it while on my tread mill since I don't have to literally turn pages. I still read books too. It reminds me of my reaction to the debate between evolution and the hand of God: Why can't both exist side by side?

Sandra Parshall said...

What I love is being able to enlarge the type. I find that the older I get, the more I need that feature. :-)

Diane said...

As I've mentioned before, I've run out of storage space for paper books, so have a Kindle and really like it. My granddaughter is - if possible - even more of a reader than I am, and has had a Kindle since about February. She finally understood why I had suggested she have more than one book on it at a time when, on a trip to Richmond, that normally takes about an hour ended up taking several (an accident turned traffic to a parking lot). She ended up bookless early on. She's been downloading one or two every couple of days. Earlier this week - with a trip to Ohio for a family funeral coming up - she downloaded 10 books the night before they left.

However, her mother, my daughter, has found that what she calls the 'flash' - bringing up the next page to be read - bothers her. She's the only one I've heard complain about that. So my step-granddaughter is getting that Kindle.

Sheila Connolly said...

I'm still wondering why I loaded the Kindle, Nook and Apple apps to my cell phone--the print has got to be tiny! But it beats that dreaded "caught somewhere without a book." I once read a multi-year-old magazine that had been stuffed in a couch at someone else's summer cabin because it was the only thing I could find.

cncbooks said...

If I still owned a bookstore, I'd probably still be resisting but I don't so I'm not. I had to laugh at Diane's story about her granddaughter, though---I have 164 books on my Nook and another 70 +/- on my laptop including an ever-expanding list of e-ARCS. I keep finding things I want to read and a simple download sure makes it easy ;)