Monday, August 8, 2011

Re-inventing Reading

I just bought a stack of books...more serious reading for the upcoming shorter days and longer nights ahead.  I used to be a voracious reader, averaging at least a couple of books a week.  Now I am lucky if I finish a couple of books a month.  One of the reasons is that the books I read tend to be Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals.  It is 757 pages reading text and has another 159 pages of notes and the index.  Another reason, in the summer, I can sit by the pool and bang off a couple hundred pages without feeling guilty that I am not doing something else...but now that Autumn is approaching, my instincts are to get back into routines and my reading routine includes a paperback in my purse or the car for when I am standing in a long line somewhere, sitting in a waiting room, or getting my hair done.  I try to read at bedtime, but...zzzz...I fall asleep so fast that I haven't had time to process the paragraph or two I managed to skim and I wind up re-reading the same pages the next time I squirrel a few minutes away with my book.

I love, love, love public libraries.  But, with my children grown, my weekly excuse to hurry up and read my books, moved out of the house.   I just am not reading fast enough to justify the extension request and late fees...sorry to say.  I have resolved though to visit the library once a week, to get myself out and about...not hang around the house so much...give myself permission to put off that load of laundry until tomorrow...let's hope that this little personal indulgence is stronger than domestic diva guilt.

Technology doesn't help.  I spend too much time on the computer, surfing the web, chatting with friends on Facebook, updating my Linked-In account and of course writing posts for my blogs.  I do read a lot on the stories, food and recipe sites, reviews, other people's blogs...but it doesn't feel quite the same...kind of like reading newspapers and magazines isn't  really reading...instead it is information gathering.  Splitting hairs but that's how I feel.

In recent months, many of my friends (who are turning the corner into another decade) have been thinking about reading...and their future method and mode of reading...queries about e-readers...Nook, Kindle, iPad and other tablets/notebooks or electronic thing-a-ma-bobs.  I have to admit, I am curious about this too.  We forced our eldest daughter, a world traveller to own a Kindle, by giving her one for Christmas...she would pack about 20 pounds of books for her trips abroad and this left little room for essentials like travel sized toothpaste and underwear.  She was most reluctant, but after a time, saw the luxury of clouds of books.  She still loves the feel of pages, so when she's home, she reads and re-reads many a tome.

Back to my peer group...I have read their fb conversations about which e-reader to get..."Is this one back-lit?"  "Can you down load magazines on that one?"  But in almost every case, the deciding factor is..."Can I increase the font size so I can see the words? "  Yup, who needs drugstore reading glasses when you can increase the size of the words!! Who wants to be spotted with the obvious LARGE PRINT edition of anything?  And yes, aside from the fact that if I get a tablet, playbook, notebook that fits in my bag so I can blog on the go...I am vainly intrigued about not having to wear my dopey .75 readers...not even a full 1.00... point 75!  Ugh.

The rest of the world seems to like the idea of plucking great literary works from the ether and storing them there.  Our local library has an account for people who want to download books.   I dunno.  I was brought up to value books; their heft, the feel of the page, that book smell.  My home is filled with packed bookshelves.  All the  nightstands in my house have books on them...even in the guest rooms.  A home library is a precious thing...a measure of wealth...of knowledge, time and yes money.  I love loaning books to friends...but if I switch to an e-reader, that joy will be diminished.

Even some restaurants are changing the menus we read...iPads are showing up with pictures of the day's choices and patrons touch a pad and boom...their filet mignon, medium rare is on its way.  I am too old fashioned.  Pouring over a menu, better yet, looking at a hand-written chalk board of choices...there is a familiarity, a sensory connection to the people offering you a meal....the "oeuvre"/masterwork of their hands. Talking to wait staff is one of  my favorite things to do when dining out...discussing the specials, asking about staff favorites and is all a part of the ambiance. If computers are going to supplant service this way, I am not so sure this is an improvement and it certainly won't be my idea of dining out.

So...if video killed the radio star, will e-readers kill book stores, libraries, newspapers...all the tactile haunts of reading?  Am I contributing to the death of  actual print if I succumb to the 21st century call of the wild?  Will I read more?  Will I enjoy reading as much?  Will I get this app or that and find myself watching news, talk shows or movies  on my tablet/playbook/e-geegaw instead of reading? 

Irony of ironies...after I finish this blog, which I hope lots of my friends are reading read, I am scheduled to work for two hours writing my cook BOOK. 

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