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Sunday, February 17, 2013

The World at My Fingertips

Today I got my Kindle.  The family who was bringing it had a few delays and didn't make it to Baku until this week.  They profusely apologized for making me wait for so long, but I really wasn't too distressed.  I've gotten used to waiting a month or so for stuff to arrive, and honestly I lose track of how long it's been since I've ordered something and so when it does come it's always a pleasant surprise.  I'm always shocked to hear that people in the U.S. can order something and have it come two days later.  It's like magic.

I'm also in the middle of a stack of books that Brandon gave me for my birthday and so am not dying for reading material.  What's the point of having more books at your fingertips when you're still finishing the ones in the house?

So when I opened the stylish black package this afternoon and pulled out my newest electronic toy, I enjoyed how pretty it was, but didn't immediately rush upstairs to get all those books I've been wanting.  Trying to have someone be excited about my new possession, I showed it to the children, and told them that this was a magic book, one that you could read lots and lots of different books on and they were all just there.  All of those big books squeezed into a little tiny electronic thing that you can hold.  They looked at me and then ran off to play, not remotely impressed.  Then I realized that they live in an age of computers and internet where the whole world is contained in a screen.

So I plugged my Kindle into the computer and charged it, not knowing what else to do.  I looked at the complete works of Anthony Trollope, and wondered about the capacity of the Kindle's hard drive, or whatever it stores things on.  After all, Anthony Trollope wrote long books.  Should I dedicate so much storage space to his complete works?  Unable to make up my mind, I decided to finish the books I already have before getting anymore.

A little while later Brandon wandered through and picked up the Kindle.  "So, what's on this thing?" he asked.  "Nothing," I confessed, "I've got to finish the books I have before getting new ones."

"Can I download something?"  Excited to find someone who was interested, I went on Amazon and  showed him how he could get his book, The Winning of the West, for free.  I've always been cheap, and I'm planning on making sure Amazon loses its bet about selling the Kindle to me for less in exchange for making money on the books I buy for my device.  There are a lot of very long, very free books that I can read before I pay a dime for anything else.

I couldn't figure out how to transfer the book to the Kindle without going through our finicky wireless, so Brandon left to put the children to bed.  After a few minutes and some manual-reading I moved the book file to the documents folder and two seconds later, the entire text of The Winning of the West, Volume 1, was in my hand.  Intoxicated with my success and greedy for more free reading material, I went back to Amazon and downloaded volumes two, three, and four.

And then my head exploded.

I have always loved reading.  My parents, walking past my room after bedtime, got in the habit of telling me to turn off my light and put my book away without ever looking to see if I was awake.  I remember struggling to read by the light of the flashlight.  For years I couldn't stand going to the bathroom without some printed material to keep me company.  If I was really desperate, I would read the kleenex box.  Breakfast was always peppered with squabbles over who got which cereal box to keep them company as we crunched through our bowls of Lucky Charms.  My high school boyfriend almost dumped me when I chose Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire over him while at the beach.  In college I had to stop reading altogether so that I would sleep and do my homework.

After Sophia was born, Brandon lost me to the salty embrace of Horatio Hornblower and only got me back after I'd followed him through every single one of his adventures.  When we were evacuated from Cairo, one of the first things I did was look up my closest library and haul the children in to get a card.  I discovered that I don't deal with stress by eating or shopping - I escape from my life into the pages of the closest book.

My love affair with reading has always been tainted by the problem of finding my next book.  Since I'm cheap, the library has always been my source of choice.  But any library only has so much space and so much money and so I've been limited to whatever my local library carries.  I have fond memories of strolling through the stacks of the Harold B. Lee Library and stumbling on the complete works of Andre Dumas, which kept me company for a few semesters.

When we moved overseas, my supply of new books slowed to a trickle, completely dependent on books that I was willing to spend money and HHE shipping weight on.  I started rereading the books we own and discovered that aging memory has certain advantages - give a book four or five years and I can read it all over again without remembering much of the previous reading.  I knew that eventually I would give in and get a Kindle, but I fought it.  And lost.

When I downloaded Roosevelt's writing for Brandon, my whole world shifted.  I looked out an saw endless streams of books coming to me over the internet, not limited by the buying tastes and budgets of my local library or my HHE shipping weight or sometimes even cost.  If I want to reread the entire works of Dumas I can.  If I want to read the biggest, thickest, trashiest book of The Wheel of Time, I can.  I don't have to wait three weeks.  I don't have to decide if this book is worth keeping around for the next twenty years.  I don't have to ask the library to purchase a copy of the book.  I just have to look it up and download it.  I will never ever again be without a new book to lure me into it's inviting pages, escaping to a land where children aren't my responsibility, dinner is cooked by someone else, and the problems are always sure to be figured out by the end.  I can read almost any book I can think of just by looking it up on the magic internet and downloading it into my magic device.  I can own all of the books.

I think Amazon may have just won its bet, and Brandon may have to stage an intervention.


UnkaDave said...

Kindles and their brethren really are great, especially those of us overseas. Enjoy! Just remember, those whimpers mean they need fed.

Mike said...

What I learned today: I need to read more. It's been a while since I've sat down and just read something nice.

Becky said...

I was sold when I realized that we could link all our kindles to the same account and everyone can use the books. I can buy a book and then send it to my older kids' kindles and they can read it. (They both loved the Ramona books for awhile.) Enjoy! I also love it when we get ready to travel. I load their kindles with a few new books and we're good to go.

Latter-day Guy said...

Which IS the trashiest book of 'The Wheel of Time'? They all seem to pale in comparison to GRRM's 'Song of Ice and Fire.' (Seriously, nobody can do character-development like GRRM!) I suppose I need to read that last volume, but part of me is afraid of the disappointment if he fails. For heaven's sake, the first volume was published when I was six! SIX! That's first grade! I'm not sure if I'm willing to let Jordan/Sanderson taint my childhood memories like that.