Although I faithfully note new books I want to read, I can never be number one on the library wait list. It doesn’t help that the book is not yet listed when I log in, anxious to find it. It doesn’t help that the library “wish list” can only include books in cataloguing. Mostly, it doesn’t help that I forget about the book until I see another ad or review – usually weeks later. By then, other more diligent readers have already ordered the book, and I am number 198 for the new Jeffrey Archer, or 20 for Donna Leon’s new mystery, and still holding at 14 for The Luminaries. Is it any wonder that my electronic book bill has soared? Sometimes, I just can’t wait.
A friend recently sent me an article from the Washington Post about the slow-reading movement and the effects of digital reading on the brain – Serious Reading Takes A Hit from Online Scanning and Skimming. It struck me as I “skimmed” the article that library users may be promoters of this movement, sometimes forcing me to revert to digital text that may be eroding what is left of my brain. Michael Rosenwald writes in the Post:
Before the Internet, the brain read mostly in linear ways — one page led to the next page, and so on… Reading in print even gave us a remarkable ability to remember where key information was in a book simply by the layout…We’d know a protagonist died on the page with the two long paragraphs after the page with all that dialogue.
The Internet is different. With so much information, hyperlinked text, videos alongside words and interactivity everywhere, our brains form shortcuts to deal with it all — scanning, searching for key words, scrolling up and down quickly. This is nonlinear reading…
Will we become Twitter brains?”
I worry that books will disappear – like bookstores. I happily still prefer holding the pages and flipping back to remember who died – harder to do on an e-book, even with those red bookmarks. But when the wait is long, and the price is right, those electronic books fill my need every time. How about you?
Bookstores are closing; e-books are gaining popularity; Amazon is positioned to publish without paper; would-be authors can self-publish – reading books is not what it used to be. In her article for Sunday Business in the New York Times – The Bookstore’s Last Stand – Julie Bosman targets Barnes and Noble as the last bastion for brick and mortar publishers. Ironically, the megastore now in jeopardy was one of two (Borders now gone) that threatened the demise of independent bookstores (just like Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan: Fox Books vs. The Little Shop Around the Corner).
Banking on the Nook to save their storefront operation, Barnes and Noble may have to follow Amazon, expanding into toys and games to attract customers. Evidently, books may not be enough to tempt buyers.
Independent book stores are hanging on, supported by their faithful customers, using the social media like Facebook and Twitter to connect with the electronically bent. Book Soup, conveniently positioned near the stars in West Hollywood, regularly offers book signings and discussions with those rich and famous, who also wrote books. Others, Like Politics and Prose, in Washington, D.C., maintain a following with newsletters, events, and posts that reach beyond the Beltway. Some small bookstores offer a flavor of comfort and exclusivity, and readers seek them out – like the Annapolis Bookstore on Maryland Avenue.
Do you have a favorite independent bookstore that you frequent? Have you bought a book there recently?
Related Article: Don’t I Know You From the Dust Jacket
With the promise of being able to download a library book, I asked Santa for the new Kindle (cheap version, not the Fire) and he delivered early – before an overnight flight to Germany. Like many libraries, the Hawaii State System recently connected to Amazon to offer free downloads of their electronic books. Unfortunately, the system had a long wait list for most books, and clicking on the “books ready to read” offered slim pickings – My Father’s Tears by John Updike or Christina Dodd’s Move Heaven and Earth.
The plane ride was bumpy and a movie I had missed – Martin Sheen in The Way – offered a pleasant distraction (beautiful scenery and worth renting if you haven’t yet seen it), but I managed to read through Dodd’s medieval romance – an easy formula read with the swashbuckling hero and the intelligent yet beautiful maiden. Since Dodd’s Move Heaven and Earth was like following a Middle Ages soap opera, the book was a good primer for learning the assorted buttons on the Kindle. If I pressed the forward button too long and skipped a chapter or two, I really didn’t miss anything.
Amazon’s marketing was successful; I’ve now purchased a few books for my Kindle. The convenience of a thin pocket-sized contraption that can hold thick books and pages of story is hard to pass up – especially if you are trying to carry on luggage. But, I did bring a few actual books along (just in case), and bought another in the Heathrow terminal en route. The Kindle is nice, but turning pages is still better than pressing an arrow.
When I came across the ocean without my books and the shelves sat bare until the slow boat carrying them could catch up, anyone who came into my office would think I did not read. After a few weeks, a few new books spread scattered on a lonely shelf; it would be impossible not to keep getting books, but those that I had kept for many years were not there – and I missed them. When they finally arrived, I closed the door and got reacquainted – smoothing their covers, rereading the inscriptions, opening to worn bookmarked pages with passages I wanted to remember.
With the shelves stacked high with a wall of books, the room was warmer and friendlier. Now when anyone came in, they went to the shelves first to see what I read – sometimes, a familiar book started a conversation or a connection.
A room without books is like a body without a soul………..Cicero
Bruce Feiler tries to snoop on his friend’s bookshelf in his article for the New York Times, Snooping in the Age of eBook, surreptitiously trying to discover what his friend is like through what she likes to read. With electronic books replacing print on paper, snooping is not so easy – books are not on display but hidden inside a Kindle, Nook, or iPad. Reading Feiler’s article reminded me of the room that had no books for a while.
That room is gone now, and many of the books have been given away or donated to the library, but some remain in a smaller room on shorter shelves. If you could see them, you’d know that I keep them to remind me of who I am, what I dream, where I’ve been, and why I read. And, if you could snoop there, you’d know a little more about me.
I found the perfect exercise program with a vook – the digital video book. After reading about this newest phenom substitute for real books in the New York Times, I tried to download the iphone app for Yoga in Bed: Awaken Body, Mind, and Spirit in 15 Minutes.
I kept getting one of those messages – not as bad as the old “you have performed an illegal operation,” but close. Maybe my chakras were not in order?
So, next I tried downloading (as directed) on my computer. At the website, I watched a short trailer that looked promising, with instructions for downloading to iphone, ibook, or kindle, at varying degrees of cost. Downloading the 15 minute vook took longer than 15 minutes – time to do some deep breathing and practice patience.
The library has an actual book – Yoga in Bed: 20 Asanas to do in Pajamas by Edward Vilga – so I checked that out – for free. Lots of full page pictures demonstrating how to “Invigorate Your AM,” with coffee cup meditation, and how to “Ease into Dreamland.”
My favorite section is “Nap Your Way to Nirvana” – I may already be ahead on that one. I finished reading the book; still downloading the vook.