Maybe it’s because I’m having a beer on an empty stomach, and it’s all gone to my head– but I am having an awfully hard time with the ethics (is that even the right word?) of this whole eBook thing.
Books have been my haven for as long as I can remember. I started reading when I was two, so I don’t even remember not enjoying them. They are my safety valve. I am never more unsettled than when my books are not near me. As I write this, some of my favorites are in the garage, guarded by black widows and those ginormous Tower cockroaches that try to pass themselves off as waterbugs. What the hell is a waterbug? I think waterbug is just another name for cockroach.
Anyway, even though I know where my books are, I pine for them. I don’t have enough bookcases in the house to shelve them, so they stay in the garage under guard, and I pine for them.
There are even more in my mom’s garage, and the thought of those make me ache. It’s beyond pining. I’ve got Ruskin, and a bunch of bound Italian periodicals, and more, and oh my Lord, my heart aches to think of them! Some people hurt and cringe when they think of ex-boyfriends, but for me– books in my mom’s garage make me so sad. Maybe even despondent.
What do I love about them, even the ones I can’t read because they are in foreign languages? I could go on and on and get sickeningly autobiographical– but I won’t. Some other time. There’s a threat! I suppose I just wanted to set up that I’m a reader. Seriously. None of that, “Oh, I fit a book in when I can” shit. I read all the freakin’ time. I devour books. Classics, modern indie stuff, trash– all of it. Some of it I enjoy, some of it I love, some of it I despise and set aside, some of it I treat like cod liver oil– but I’ll read anything once.
I love both the intangible ( Ideas! Knowledge! Escape!) and the tangible (Going to the bookstore! The feel of the paper! The smell of the ink!).
So when I am confronted by a suddenly affordable eReader, the new Amazon Kindle 3, I don’t really know what to do with myself. I feel like an uptight prude who is suddenly incredibly turned on by a biker dude with deathly tats. The Kindle and its ilk go against everything I believe in! Kind of.
Gone would be the tactile pleasure of the paper, the sensory overload of ink, mixed with coffee, if I’m actually in a store. I would certainly miss that.
But the other reason why I’ve got such a jones for books– the comfort, the escape, the constant accessibility of knowledge… Good Lord Almighty, I’d have that in spades. And some of it for free.
For example, there’s an antique Baedeker I’ve been hunting down for a while. It’s over $100 at Powell’s– or was it Daedalus?– and I found it on Open Library for free. I could just download it. The thrill of that was practically orgasmic. There, I said it. But it was! I got breathless. I panicked. Was I doing something wrong? Was looking at this Baedeker illegal, somehow? But no! It wasn’t!
And so I pre-ordered that stupid Kindle whose predecessor I’d eyed with disgust just a few short weeks before. God, I’m fickle! All it took was that Baedeker. And I would have paid for it, but the fact that it was available for free just floated my boat. I will still snap up the real deal if I ever come across it, but I don’t yearn for it as much, knowing I have the bones of it.
Now I wonder– does all this eStuff make everybody wet so quickly, or am I just easy? Will libraries acquire more eBooks instead of printed materials? I hope not! But look how quickly I turned into an eSlut. Libraries trying to stay in the black would get eSlutty very quickly, I’m sure. After an initial startup, eBooks must be cheaper. You don’t have to store them so meticulously. Into the shredder all those scanned books will go! Of course, unpopular books have been fed to the shredder for years, so maybe that argument isn’t so valid. At least more of them may be scanned and kept around, even if it’s only digitally.
Also, as I was cleaning up this weekend for a party, I realized that with a Kindle, I could keep the books really liked– the classics, the antiques, the Golden Age mysteries– but could get rid of the fodder. You know, fodder– like animal food. Some books feed that animal side of us– badly written mysteries that you enjoy for the sake of the plot, or some affection for a character. Or, lately, all those Charlaine Harris novels! (There’s a whole dilemma right there. Sure, she’s never seen hide nor hair of an MFA program, and I’m sure she doesn’t read hipster/relevant/intellectual stuff– but the fact that I and so many others enjoy her storytelling, surely we can’t discount that? I won’t. Genre is too broad of a category, but I’ll just lump everybody in there.) Most genre novels I don’t necessarily want to take up space on my bookshelf, especially whole series of them. Beepbeepboop! There it all goes into my Kindle. Shelf cleared. Bedside table cleared.
So there’s my muddled reasoning. I feel like such an eSlut, waiting impatiently for August 27th.