But, there it is. Every night at bedtime I take up where I left off the night before with my Kindle e-reader, and doggedly pursue whatever book until the process of nodding off to sleep begins to take effect, an event signified by me repeatedly dropping the device so that it hits me in the chest.
(How my nervous system got wired so that I can only read when I’m on my back but can only sleep on my stomach has always been a mystery to me, and one probably best left unexplored.)
Being hit in the chest — or worse, face — by a Kindle e-reader is not painful at all, a veritable love-tap compared to, say, the brick-sized Norton Anthology of Great British Whatever.
The Kindle’s physical lightness is one of countless advantages of e-reading that I’ve discovered in the few years I’ve had it, and the details of any one of those advantages is guaranteed to put to sleep any reader of conventional books for whom I go into my spiel about my conversion from a paper-bookaholic to an electronically enhanced one. Conventional readers just don’t want to hear it, and I can’t blame them. I didn’t either, when I was in their shoes. Between their covers. Whatever.
As electronics go, my Kindle is well on its way to becoming an antique. If it wasn’t the first model off the assembly line it was surely in the first dozen, and I can picture Amazon’s CEO standing nearby smiling after a ribbon-cutting, or champagne cork-popping, to mark the auspicious occasion.
What Kindle figured out first was a solution to the problem that kept me from even considering earlier, competing models: namely, computer screens look fine indoors but in sunlight they’re virtually unreadable. So the Kindle doesn’t have a computer screen, just a sheet of vinyl polymer-whatsis that’s as white as a piece of paper.
It’s only when you hit the “On” switch that text rises into the whiteness, in the form of so-called “electronic ink” that won’t smudge or fade or run. The electronic display is pure black on pure white and reads beautifully in full, strong sunshine. For sleepy-time use, the protective case contains a tiny halogen light on a pull-out arm. And everything runs off the same built-in battery, which gets 12 to 15 hours of reading per charge.
There are any number of finer and fancier e-readers that have come out since, and I like all their features—such as full color graphics and customizable page-turn animation—except one: they’re basically little computer screens that look like mud when you try to read them outdoors.
I’m sure there are enterprising inventors, even now, coming up with black fabric hoods with an elastic hole for your neck and another elastic hole for your e-reader. But I’m especially paranoid in these days of heightened national security, and the smart money says a guy with a black hood over his head would be the first kicked off almost any public beach.
Plus, it’s hard to match the sheer itsy-bitsy-ness of the old bare-bones, thinner than a paperback Kindle. With my arthritis and reading vision both getting worse by the week, a miniature book with adjustable text magnification and a built-in light source makes reading so comfortable for me it’s almost like a work of science fiction. Or in any event, as Shakespeare once said of his new vellum e-book, “a consummation devoutly to be wish’d.”
Are there elements of old paper books that I miss? Sure. The smell of the paper and ink, especially with new books and their covers. And the ability to flip back to the Table of Contents or to the very last page, with ease. Both are possible to do electronically, but somewhat of a federal case of button-punching is required.
But all in all, I’ll take the trade any day. You might say I’ve turned the page.
And if somebody will just invent e-ink that smells like the real thing, and let me stick my thumb into the device’s innards on occasion to find a specific page, I’ll be the happiest camper in reader-dom. Hands down.
Dale Short is a native of Walker County. His columns, photos, and radio features are available on his website, carrolldaleshort.com. His weekly radio program “Music from Home” airs each Sunday at 6 pm on Oldies 101.5 FM, streams live online at www.oldies1015fm.com, and is archived afterward on his website.