Friday, January 20, 2012

Confessions of a Kindle Addict

Oh, yes, I remember the old days. Back then, you lugged your books around in a backpack or a library bag, you held them in your hands, felt their weight, turned their pages, and maybe -- just maybe -- you scribbled notes in the margins.

Then, along came technology and people began talking about the end of the book as we knew it.

"Absolutely not. It's never going to happen." That was me talking back then. I laughed at the idea a lot, too. "I don't care what anybody says. Books will never go away."

I loved my computer, yes, but I loved my books more, and as far as I was concerned the twain were never intended to meet. The very thought of sitting in my hard-backed chair reading a book on my computer screen made me wince.

Actually, I did try it. I read a few chapters of Frankenstein on-line, and if you caught my recent post on Facebook, you already know that reading Mary Shelley's classic work is on my list of things-to-do in 2012. In other words, I never got through more than those first few chapters. Reading novels on a computer wasn't my thing and never would be. I was sure of it.

So, for the love of books, I lugged around that heavy backpack. People joked when I went away for a weekend. I couldn't leave home without taking along at least five or six different books. What can I say? My mind jumps from one thing to the next a lot, so I can never predict what I might want to read.

But, of course, technology ignored me and moved on, and while I wasn't looking (I probably had my nose stuck in a hard-bound book somewhere) a slew of new-fangled gadgets came along, all designed to make reading on-line easier and more convenient.

I long as I could.

Finally, as I heard more and more about on-line publishing and saw more and more of my author friends' work available on Kindle, I became intrigued. Curiosity soon got the best of me, and I wanted to learn all about this not-so-new-technology I'd shunned for so long. In many ways, I felt a little left out, as though everyone around me were enjoying a festive party, and I'd been too stubborn to even open the invitation.

I downloaded the Kindle reading app for my PC. And for my smartphone. I searched around a bit, found a few free classics. Pride and Prejudice. Treasure Island. And, yes, Frankenstein.

Interesting concept. Free books. On my computer. Better yet, on my phone, tucked away in my purse or a pocket. Now, that was convenient, I had to admit.

Then I heard about other free books. Books on topics that interested me. Books about writing. Books about perfume. I began browsing the Kindle Store like a mad-woman. Search. Sort. Sort by price. Download. Read. Enjoy.

Soon, I was drooling over books that had price tags. My "wish list" began to fill up, and my will power diminished. Sure, why not buy that book? It's only $8.99. And while I'm at it, I'll grab that one, too. Just another $3.99.

Oh, it's so easy! I've become the Queen of One-Click. Say yes, download, start reading. Any time. Anywhere.

Now, imagine the thrill I get as I sit in the reception area of my dentist's office, waiting to be called back for my check-up...all the while reading about erotic massage techniques. Or the joy of brushing up on fiction-writing how-to's while I'm standing in a slow-moving line at the grocery store. And oh, what fun it is when I talk to a friend about my own romance novel and can whip out my smartphone and let them start reading.

For years, I've joked that I don't live in a house, but in a library, instead. My house looks like a library. I have books on shelves in the living room, books on shelves in the kitchen, books on shelves in the bedrooms, books on shelves in the basement. Some of the shelves are double-stacked with books two-deep. Of course, I've run out of shelves, so I have books piled up on the floor in just about every room of the house. Now, as more and more books become available on Kindle, I think about how nice and uncluttered my house might someday be. A biographer once described President James Madison as "the little man with the library in his head", and I've begun to think of myself as "the little old lady with a library in her phone." It's nice.

I do still have my book bag, too, though I rarely use it any longer. My research books are gathering dust on shelves and corners, while the books I use most often are conveniently stored on my smart phone, ready to be opened and read with a few taps on the screen.

Best of all, I can still curl up in bed and read. I can add notes, place bookmarks, and do just about anything with a Kindle book that I could do with a "real" book. And I can do it with a lot less hassle.

Imagine that. Me, becoming an advocate for electronic books. Not a mere advocate, but an addict. A real Kindle junkie who can't go a day without cruising the Kindle store, ferreting out bargains and adding a few new titles to my "wish list."

Who would have ever thought it would happen?

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