The Use of Talking

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I’ve always thought of myself as a semi-Luddite in the matter of reading. I don’t want to smash everyone else’s reading machines, but I certainly wouldn’t want one of my own. I’m a forty-year veteran of the publishing industry; I go back to the days when postmen and messengers trafficked galleys from editor to author to compositor, when pagnook hd+es were made up and pasted by hand. What could replace the experience of holding a new book, the new-book smell, the texture of the paper, the design, the typography, the heft of a book in the hands? Certainly not a piece of plastic.

But recently I switched iPods with my middle daughter: my Classic for her and her Touch for me. She had dropped the Touch,  leaving a spiderweb of cracks on the lower right. It was unsightly, but still operable. I had intended to use it just for listening, but on impulse I downloaded the Kindle app and a ridiculously inexpensive edition of the complete works of Henry James. reading Roderick Hudson on the absurdly small screen and trying to guess the words that hid behind the cracks.To my surprise, the text outside the cracks was quite readable, and it didn’t take me long to finish the book. The experience wasn’t the same as reading a physical book, but the words seemed to slip easily from the screen into my head. While I ‘d still rather read academic books o paper, fiction reads very well on-screen; and you can’t beat the portability.

Then her generous grandparents gave that same middle daughter a Nook HD+ for her birthday. I was consumed with envy. (Now, it’s a humiliating thing to be jealous of one’s daughter, and you should give me some credit for admitting to it.) Books aside, I’m not a particularly covetous guy, but one of the few things (books aside)


I’ve ever really wanted is an iPad. When all the vice-presidents at the company I used to work for were given them, some ostentatiously using them during during meetings, my envy was kindled. Now, the Nook is an Android tablet, not an iPad, but I thought that, all things considered, it would suit me very well. I was even more covetous when I tried reading on it, a great step up from the iPod. My mind was alive with schemes for coming up with the money, which, given our financial predicament, came down to selling more physical books. I’d sold quite a few over the last six months, though, and my supply of salable ones had diminished greatly.

By now my fever has abated somewhat, but my change of heart remains: there’s much more to be said about e-reading than I’d been able to imagine. I’m now ready to charge full-speed ahead to 2007—or 2010, if anyone wants to send me an iPad.

ADDENDUM: One of the attraction of e-books is the amount of space they don’t take up.


Written by hans castorp

August 20, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Technology

Tagged with , , , ,

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