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E-ternally Yours, More or Less

It turns out that a love of reading seems to require an inevitable fondness for real estate. Face it: If you love books, you want to own them. It’s just part of the experience of knowing a book. It’s as predictable as toast making crumbs. And owning books, my friends, takes space. Real estate. It even explains the abandoned, book-filled trailer my husband discovered in a field one day. He found it odd. OK, he found it really weird. I, however, needed no explanation. My only question was what was going to happen to all those books? Enter e-readers, the crack cocaine of the literary world, the sugar high, the Carbo Kings, an endorphin mainline. If your battery is charged, they are an easy hookup, making it possible to raid bookstore or library and acquire new reads anytime and anywhere there is Internet access. Once the book is downloaded, you don’t need Internet to read it. E-books also let you travel with as many volumes as you like. Imagine that. Truly. The economic lure at the heart of this seduction is that e-books are less expensive than paper books. Typically, e-books go for about half of their hard cover twins, often less than $10. Chapters of new books can be sampled for free. Non-copyrighted classics of the Western canon are free: Austen, Dostoevsky, Twain. It makes the fingers twitch. E-books also let you underline and annotate, and never lose your place. ‘Tis a wonder. That being said, though, it is also true that nothing can replace the feel of having a book in your hand. Flipping pages is an act of intimacy. Choosing to hold and look and ponder a text in the cradle of your hand is some kind of intellectual foreplay. This is no hyperbole. It is the seductive fruit of a century that takes literacy for granted and makes lingering and privacy a sweet indulgence. That’s why it took me two years to fall in love with my Kindle. I bought it for practical reasons: no more schlepping pounds of paper to class. But after one day of trying to find passages with students to read aloud and not being able to turn paper pages with them, I realized how light was my burden of carrying all those books.

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