I have noticed the monthly circulation figures for my local library have been declining for the past eighteen months or so. I bought a Kindle around eighteen months ago. Coincidence? Hmm . . .
A lot of people tell me they won’t buy an e-reader. They love books – the feel of them, the heft of them, the smell of them, the whole gestalt of them. I love books, too, as the eleven floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in our study, one in each boy’s bedroom, two in the second floor hallway, three in our bedroom, and one in the family room, plus the books piled on the floor on the study, on the bed-side tables in the bedroom, under the boys’ beds, on (and under) the family room table, and in all three bathrooms will attest. But I recently realized something important: it’s not books I love. It’s reading.
I bought the Kindle a few weeks before we left on a two-week trip to LA and Wisconsin (you can read about it further down on this site). I have a pathological fear of being stuck in an airport, or, worse, on a plane, with nothing to read. Needing to pack for what we had expected to be two entirely different weather conditions, our suitcases were just under the weight limit. Even one book would have tipped it over. And putting the dozen or so books I’d have needed for a two-week trip into my carry-on was just not practical, unless I had started pumping iron six months earlier. The Kindle was the answer to a reader’s prayers. Light weight. Easy to put in my purse. Holds the virtual equivalent of tons of books.
My biggest problem with the Kindle is its ease of use. Or, rather, its ease of downloading books. I have to remind myself not to buy a book unless I would buy it in hard copy; if it’s a book I would normally borrow from the library, I should still borrow it from the library. I haven’t listened to myself.
I’ve always loved to read. Anything. Anywhere. Any time. I remember being thoroughly bored on some car trip or other with my parents when I was quite young. I had nothing to read. So I picked up the telephone book (remember those?) on the floor of the back seat of the car (I’ve no idea why it was there) and read it.
I never minded being sent to my room. To me, it wasn’t punishment, because it meant I could read. It’s not that I couldn’t have gone to my room and read without misbehaving first, but chances are I would have been watching TV or talking to my friends on the phone instead. I wonder sometimes if the need to read overcame my common sense when it came to doing things like talking back. I never told my mother the punishments didn’t work.
What is it about reading that I love so much? I could go into a whole psychoanalytic mode and talk about being a lonely only child and finding companionship in books, except I always seemed to understand that being alone did not equal being lonely.
There’s something about a book that transports me, not just into a world of imagination (cue song from “Willy Wonka” – the Gene Wilder version), but into other people’s lives. Call it curiosity, call it escapism, call it laziness. I call it heaven.