Friday, May 13, 2011

Nook or Book?

copyright 2011, Marcia Applegate  
I had an interesting conversation the other day in my doctor’s office for a routine physical. While the nurse was doing the usual pre-exam tests, she saw my Nook sticking out of my bag. She asked me how I liked it. “I love it,” I said. She asked me why, but before I could go into any detail, she said, “I have friends who have those things, but give me a real book anytime.” I’ll give you more of a rundown on our conversation in a moment, because it reflects so clearly the different ways readers react to the idea of using a modern technological gizmo to do something as ancient and traditional as reading. But I want to set the stage first. 
Let’s go back some 20 or so years. Taking a lunch break, I looked through the several books in my desk drawer, grabbed a paperback copy of John Grisham’s latest, and headed off to a cafe near my office building in downtown Chicago. I got my tray of food and as I trolled for an open table, I noted several people reading the same Grisham book. We smiled at one another, we were co-conspirators in the same mystery.
Now let’s fast forward to just the other day, when I was at my gym for my thrice-weekly workout. I climbed on one of the elliptical striders, selected a program and opened up my Nook. As I settled in for my hour-or-so workout, the man on the machine next to me tapped me on the shoulder and, grinning, held up his e-reader, a Kindle. We chatted for a moment or two and he told me his wife had an Ipad which she sometimes used to read books. 
The point of my two little scenarios here is obvious. Times change. Things that seem unchangeable change. Twenty years ago I had never heard of an e-reader. If someone had suggested pleasure reading in some form other than books or magazines, I would have thought of it as something as futuristic as cars that drive themselves. In some ways, I am a techno-Luddite and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
Yet, here I am today, doing much of my pleasure reading on my Nook, which is undeniably not something a Luddite would do. One of the major advantages of a e-reader such as the Nook is its portability.  Right now, I’m reading an Elizabeth George multi-multi-multi-page mystery, along with “The Autobiography of Mark Twain,” and the first part of a historical trilogy about Theodore Roosevelt. 
If I were to carry just these three books, the Roosevelt, the Mark Twain and the George, each one of which is individually heavy, I’d need a cart and a horse. The Nook could carry practically my entire library, if I chose to do that. Any e-reader will hold innumerable books, although I suppose there is variation among brand. I know only about my particular e-reader. At the same time, though, I have in my study where I do my writing several loaded bookshelves, and books stashed on whatever flat surface is available. My study shelves are where I keep reference and technical books of all sorts, the living room bookcases are stuffed with fiction, history, current events, political commentary. And both sets of shelves have that oh-so-useful category of miscellaneous.
I tell you that because, while writing this post and other posts, I went to those bookshelves many times. I use the Internet a great deal for reference, but print books get a lot of use as well. I guess maybe I should call myself a lapsed Luddite; I do use technology for many things, this blog is a classic example, although I’m not an early adopter. Look for me after everybody else has worked the bugs out. 
Nor am I comfortable with technology as are younger folks who have grown up with it. They have a frame of reference completely different from mine. Most youngsters can’t remember writing by hand, copying with a mimeograph, using a manual typewriter (with at least one key that always stuck), giving the operator the phone number, depositing money by going to the bank, paying bills by check through the mail–those are just some of the entire range of “technology” that we older folk thought of as state of the art. 
Now to get back to my conversation with the nurse about e-readers vs print books. She has, she told me, resisted letting her husband get her an e-reader as he wants to do. Her reasons for preferring books make good sense, are true and are probably shared by every book lover, me included. “Books,” she said, “have a special smell. When they’re new, they smell new and they feel new. When they’re old, they smell musty and have a crinkly, worn feel. I love to sit down in my chair, get some coffee and just read and read.”
Then waving her hands in a way that I could instantly identify as turning a page, she went on, “Books feel good in my hands, although the heavy ones are hard to read in bed. Turning the pages helps me know I’m moving along. And they look good on the shelves. They feel homey, sort of.” Then she detailed some negatives the about books. “When I got married and moved I had to get rid of a whole bunch of them. You have to carry them off, give them away to the library or somewhere. But I’m sticking with books.” 
And there is where I come in. I’m sticking with books, too. Never would I even consider eliminating paper books from my life. Because I love them. They have been my friends ever since I learned to read, and will continue as friends for the rest of my life.
But I love my Nook, too.

Blogs as Tweets as!/meladolce
Retired communications/media consultant, columnist
For fun stuff--reading (and writing) mysteries, mainstream
Studying Italian, loves music, husband, family, two cats
E-books, blogging, brand-new IPad; now that’s fun!


Note: Marcia, I'm on vacation this week, but wanted to welcome you to MB4 today! Thanks so much for this insightful and entertaining piece! We must stay in touch, and hope you'll be back to post for us again. ;o)  Aaron


Marcia said...

Thanks so much, Aaron, for running this. I'll love to do more guest blogging stints and you can look for reviews of your books.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Thanks, Marcia. Great to have you here! We'll stay in close touch. ;o)