Monday, January 17, 2011

The Electrocution of the Bookworm

The bookworm has been electrocuted, but don't be sad. There's a happy ending.

At my request, my brother gave me a Kindle for Christmas and I have to say I like it better than I thought I would. I was intrigued with the notion of an electric book but withheld judgment, waiting to see if it would do the reading trick for me, and so far, it has.

My only problem centers on heft. The Kindle is pretty light weight, which is good. The heft problem has to do with the fact that I apparently gauge the length of a book by its weight and girth, not to mention the number of pages. My Kindle doesn’t give me page numbers and it weighs the same, whether I’m reading War and Peace or a memoir by someone who hasn’t yet lived very long. It does give me the percentage of what I’ve read. For example, my Kindle will have something like 38% written at the bottom of the screen. But percentage of what? Thirty-eight percent of 200 pages or 1000? So, what happens is I’ll be barreling along, happy as that legendary worm eating its way through a real paper and ink book, when all of a sudden, I’m at the end. Okay, the climax was there and the ending was satisfactory and the little percentage sign did say 98, but I’m still nonplussed and undone, and that’s because I couldn’t count the number of pages I had left as I was moving along.

Who would have thought, when I was a little girl, that I would someday read an electric book? I remember hearing about how, one day, we would be able to see the people we talk to on the phone.  This has obviously already happened with Skype and that latest IPhoney thing. I also remember laughing about the notion of smellivision, technology which would enable us to actually smell what Mrs. Cleaver and Aunt Bee were baking in their cozy kitchens.

But an electric book! Who could have envisioned such a thing and why would anyone want one?

I've been a reader almost as far back as I can remember. I recall sitting in the back seat of my parents' car, book in lap, knowing I could read. I like to think I was somewhere around four, but it may have been later. I do remember it was after second grade  when I finished one of my brother's Hardy Boys books, which was too hard for me to fully enjoy, but I still took great pride in my feat.  And then there was the great joy I had as a child, which emanated from my being able to eat the occasional sandwich meal, not with my family around the dining table, but while lying in my bed with a book as my dinner companion.

Other reading memories as a child include:
  • 365 Bedtime Stories.  I read this book for years, even when I was too old for it.  My kids have tried to find it to give me as a gift, but, so far, no luck.
  • The Secret Garden.
  • Those biographies of famous people with the silhouettes on the front cover.  I only read the girl ones: Martha Washington, Clara Barton, Juliette Low.
  • Trixie Belden.  I loved Trixie and Honey and the Gang and so wanted something exciting like that to happen in my life.
  • The Diary of Anne Frank. Whatever goodness I have in me was bolstered by reading this book at a relatively young age.
  • Lost Horizon.  I don't remember how old I was when I read this one but I knew it was one of my mother's favorite books and it became one of mine too.
  • Born Free.  My mother actually read this book to me when I was about ten and we spent the summer at my grandparents' house in Phoenix.
In fact, many of of my childhood memories have to do with reading, coming back from the old Savannah Public Library on Bull Street with a load of books, picking through them, deciding which one I would read first.  I was a child who lived a dual reality, one of my own making and the other based on whatever book I was reading.  I could say the same about my adult life, a life made richer by the books I've read. 

And so, I think I'll juice up the Kindle and browse my digital stacks to figure out what I'll read next.  It's nice not to have to make my way to the bookstore or the public library.

But wait, I just found my mother's copy of Lost Horizon, all dusty and forlorn on a bookshelf.  I think I'll pick it up, and read it again.  It feels good in my hands; not too light, not too heavy and it has just a right number of pages. 

20 comments: said...

I have been intrigued and would probably save a bundle, or would have, if I had bought a Kindle. What worries me is the WIFI thingy. Have you had a book delivered via the waves yet?

Also, I need to be able to mark pages as I read. Can you do that?

marciamayo said...

Dianne, I have ordered over the web and I got my book in about 10 seconds. It's unbelievable. And you can mark pages; however, each book you are reading automatically goes back to the last page you were on when you click to open it. I already think it's great. I've read 2 books on it and have enjoyed them just as much as a regular book. I do, however, have to get used to not having page numbers.

Joan Madaglia said...

Loved this one, Marcia. You know, even though we grew up many miles apart, we share a number of experiences that were obviously universal to children back in our day. I,too, read the biographies and bedtime stories, the Secret Garden, etc. I also enjoyed getting in my parents' car on a rainy Saturday afternoon, covering up, and reading until dark.
My kids got me a Kindle for Christmas and I've read several books already. I like the fact you don't need a bookmark. The only downside is I'm cheap, and the books I usually want to read cost $ and the public library is free. I have downloaded several good ones (free). Do you know any good ones to recommend?

Olga said...

I remember the biographies---I also read just the female. Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames. My favorite was a short series about Beanie Malone. You know, I'll be I can find those books somewhere on line. Is it a dangerous sign to want to revert to things of childhood??

marciamayo said...

Joan, how did you find the free ones? I've had a hard time finding them. I've read February and The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag. I really liked both of them but I had to pay for them.

marciamayo said...

Olga, no I don't think so. However, I bet they might be expensive as they could be collectors items.

Penelopepiscopal said...

I admit to giving the Kindle I got for Christmas last year back; my husband enjoys it very much. Now I have an iPad. I still prefer to read actual books, for a lot of reasons, but then again I do a lot of online reading, too. My compromise is to only read free books via my iPad.

A great place to find free books is at Project Gutenberg. They have nothing but free books - mostly classics - so stuff you meant to read but never did, or stuff you'd like to read again but not buy. See their site here:

MaryB said...

Very interesting. I've been wondering if I'd like one - I'm still wondering.
There are many pros and cons but I think my biggest question is: do I really want to spend all the time and effort to learn about it and how it works. Thanks for a straight forward commentary.

Story Connection - Our Memories Bring Us Together said...

Mary, figuring out the basics wasn't that hard. I do think it's worth it.

Friko said...

Where would we be without books, without the written word per se.
Infinitely poorer. to my mind. Like you I hardly can remember a time when there were no books in my life.

I am not interested in a Kindle for myself, I love the book in my hand too much but I would like to explore electronic reading for my husband, whose eyesight is failing due to MD. Would a Kindle be any good?

Story Connection - Our Memories Bring Us Together said...

Friko, I think so as you can change the size of the print. I would do some research first though.

Wisewebwoman said...

Oh thanks for the review of this, Marcia - I too adored "Secret Garden" and my dear friend in Dublin steered me towards Kate Morton's "Forgotten Garden" which has Frances Hodgson Burnett as a minor character. I think you would love it.
I am still 'out' on Kindle. I lug my books everywhere and only till you wrote about it did I realize page numbers are UBER important to me makes sense a data base has none though.

Story Connection - Our Memories Bring Us Together said...

WWW, I'm looking up Forgotten Garden right now.

Kate said...

Got my first Kindle this year, too. LOVE IT! I'm still learning how to 'search' a book; I like flipping back a few pages to remind myself of who that odd character is. And I worry just a little about dropping it in the bathtub. : )
Start here:
for free stuff for the Kindle on Amazon. If the link doesn't work, choose Kindle Store for the department, then free books.

This thing is wonderful in a doc's waiting room and great outside. It comes with a built-in dictionary and you can even write notes to yourself about passages or thoughts.

thought I wouldn't care; turns out I love it.

Arkansas Patti said...

Yea, another convert. I ADORE my Kindle and now days kind of resent having to read a hard copy. When I read Fall of Giants which was over 1000 pages, I was grateful for the light weight and ease of handling. Also, I now have 98 books stored TBR, most are free first time writers and the shelf space they take up is measured in inches. I don't mind the lack of pages. They can't do that because when you change the size of print, you would alter the page count. Soon you will function well on that percent aspect.
Do enjoy.

Brig said...

I don't like my Kindle, I loves it. Being a voracious reader in the middle of no where, it has been wonderful. I can read when and pretty much anything I want. There are lots of free books, and nominal cost on others. As for lack of heft, I was a little put of by that, til I got a leather cover, problem solved.

Vagabonde said...

My problem is that I have been buying loads of books at library sales, second-hand stores, estate sales, garage sales, flea markets, etc., to read when I would retire. I am retired now and am trying to read them all but by the number of books I bought I’ll need to live to maybe 110 years of age. I am talking about thousands of books here. When I was little my mother would give me 3 books if I was the first in my class, 1 book if I was in the top 3 and nothing after that, so I always tried to be first. You would not know my favorite children books as they are French, but I also liked translated foreign books like the books of Jack London, Dickens and Little Women.

Freda said...

It seems that the majority of people like their kindle(s) but I am still not sure - I just love the look and feel of books. Mind you, I divested myself of over half my books when I retired nearly 6 years ago, but have been buying books constantly ever since. The lure of secondhand bookshops and online shopping is too much for me. As for childhood reading, I find myself wanting to go back and read them all over again, especially, The Secret Garden. (Oh and the Tarzan series!)

I Wonder Wye said...

I am a dinosaur -- just can't get behind the wired book thing...I love everything about books -- the jacket cover art, heft, feel and smell of the paper and pages, snuggling in bed with one...other than that we are sisters bc we loved the same books in childhood...

Cile said...

Great review, Marcia. I love how you picked up the page number thing! Who knew that we have these subtle attachments to a tactile experience of reading? I think everyone should keep a few books that are especially important to who they are to be passed down through the family like heirlooms. The is a tremendous savings of time, energy and long as the electricity holds out anyway!

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