Thursday, July 28, 2011

My E-Reader, My Friends, and Me

So, I now have an e-reader, a nook color, and I like it, mostly. Here's some of what I like: I can check out library books with it. I was very interested in reading a book from Canada called The Myth of Ability and waited months for a paper copy which never came. With the book backordered until who knows when, I bought the e-version and am very glad for it. I'm also glad to be reading Treasure Island and to have Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone queued up in there. (Thank you, New Yorker, for the recent Wilkie Collins essay.) And I like that I can read my nook in a dark room while my kids are falling asleep. (Please don't ask why I'm in my kids' room when it's dark and they're falling asleep. Someday I won't do it and I won't be a short order cook and hopefully my kids won't be ruined for all my mistakes.)

Here's what I don't like. I don't like that I've read a few books on the nook that I've wanted to pass along to friends and can't. And I don't like that if I'm reading on the nook on the train or in a restaurant there's absolutely no chance that anyone will ask me about what I'm reading. I've had someone ask me about the nook itself, but that's it. If you're reading a book with a cover on it, it's like there's an opening into asking about it. The other day I saw someone reading The Thing About Life is One Day You'll Be Dead, a book I've been wondering about for a while now. I asked him about it and we had a pleasant, brief exchange and I still want to read it, but if he'd been reading it on the nook, I wouldn't have been reminded that that's a book I want to read.

During my course on teaching literacy this past Spring, my literacy teacher made the point that reading is a social act. I'd never seen it that way before. In fact, I approached reading as a deeply private act. But it's not. And one of the ways it's not is that when you're reading out of doors, used to be everyone could see what you were reading. Reading on the nook, while convenient, feels five steps more isolated because everything I read is on my machine. These feelings don't exactly make sense, I know, and I'll continue to read on the nook, but let's just say that when I gave my kids the option of either buying the books of Harry Potter three and four and getting them on the nook, it was no contest. They wanted the books. They wanted the things, and even though I'm going to have to schlepp those things along with me on vacation, I was glad for it.

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