Wherein Donna Is Dragged Into The 21st Century.

Written by Donna

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January 17, 2013

So here’s the thing: I happily confess that I am a technological Luddite.  I don’t like change. I don’t have a smartphone—well, I do, kind of (it’s sort of an average intelligence phone, really) but aside from texting now and then and using it for what a phone was actually invented for—talking to other people—it mostly sits silently somewhere near me.  I never use it to access the internet, although it’s capable of that if I want to pay for it, but I don’t.  I have a computer for that.  I don’t own an iPod (to be fair, I’d likely break that).  I am also perfectly content to function well behind the times–no streaming Netflix for me, or downloading apps.  I’m telling you all of this to offer some sort of explanation for why it’s taken me this long to acquire an e-reader.

I should also explain up front that I still wouldn’t have one if my co-blogger here hadn’t offered to sell me her old Kindle for a reasonable price.  I am also, I admit, thrifty.  What some people view as necessities I view as luxuries.  I really can’t help it, and I’m sure there’s some pathological reason for it.  But mostly it’s that for years now I couldn’t bring myself to spend that much money on something I wasn’t sure I’d even like.  And that I was, honestly, kind of afraid of because things like that are so alien to me, really.  Plus there’s the idea of spending a lot of money on something I realistically might not be able to figure out how to use (laugh if you will, but to me, technology is like magic.  I have no idea how my computer works, for example.  I push a button every morning and confidently expect it to turn on.  If it doesn’t, I panic.  I also have no idea how electricity works, and I suspect I’m happier not knowing these things). I am also a bit of a klutz, so there was the distinct possiblity that I’d break something I paid a lot of money for and be unhappy in several different ways.  Natalie has assured me for years, however, that I would be able to cope with a Kindle and encouraged me.  So I finally relented.

Yes.  I have lost my Kindle Virginity.

When it arrived, I took it out of the packaging and eyeballed it like a rattlesnake.  I figured out how to wake it up fairly quickly, and paged through the user’s guide, mainly to figure out what all the buttons were for and how to set it up with my Amazon account.  Then I put it to sleep, put it in its case, and picked up the paperback I was rereading.  I’d dipped my toe into the lake, but I wasn’t up to wading into it just yet.

Later, my husband convinced me to buy a book.  “Go ahead, just one,” he encouraged.  So I figured out how to do that and pre-ordered the new Peter Robinson mystery (review forthcoming!).  The next morning, it was magically there.  Natalie gifted me with the Courtney Milan trilogy she’s been raving about here, and I clicked the link and watched them magically appear.

And I have to admit that it was cool.  And easy.  I can see it being a problem, though.  Because it was too easy to just buy a book and watch it appear magically on my Kindle.  I know me.  “Oh, I want to read this” and Poof!  Magic. And a ginormous credit card bill.  Books are like crack to me, and my willpower when I have access to them and to a credit card is going to take a pretty severe beating, I suspect.  It’s one of the reasons why I’m glad the nearest bookstore to me is half an hour away.  Amazon, on the other hand, is not–and it has a lot to answer for in terms of my monthly bills.

Anyway.  For three days I kept looking at it now and then.  I’d wake it up, look at the Robinson book sitting there, begging to be read, and put it back to sleep in its case.  Yes.  I was afraid of it–and afraid that I’d hate it and I spent money on this thing and this book and I’m going to hate it so much and I’ll have to go buy another copy of the book and I wasted all this money and OMG I am SO frigging neurotic.  In my mind, if I never used it, I’d never know I hated it, if I did hate it.  And so forth.  My husband kept saying “have you started yet?” and I’d just sadly shake my head, but I knew eventually I was going to have deal with my stupid nuttiness, so late last week I finally got over myself, woke up the Kindle, and started to actually read on it.

And miraculously, I did not hate it.  I actually knew I probably wouldn’t hate it, but my mind works in ways I can’t explain and, like electricity, I really think I’m better off not understanding how it works.  Ignorance is bliss and all that. So I did like it.  I found navigating things easier than I expected.  I figured out how to make collections on it.  How to bookmark, highlight, all that stuff–really, it was made for a techno-idiot like me.  I have no idea what the hell I was so afraid of.  I feel stupid.

For me, there are plusses and minuses.  On the plus side, I can adjust the font to a size that suits me.  My eyesight is not good and is getting worse as time goes on.  Between the ability to adjust the font and the good quality of the contrast on the screen, I found actually reading from the screen to be much easier than from a book, and I appreciated for the first time just how much I was struggling with the smaller print in paperbacks.  I  managed to finish a 400+ page book much faster than I have been able to recently, which I attribute to being able to read it more easily.  Another plus is that I will no longer have to wait until a.) I can get to a bookstore, b.) I can get to the library (and hope they have it), and c.) for Amazon to mail it.  Magic.  Plus, my library does have an e-book borrowing program that I intend to investigate just as soon as I have some free time and which I fully intend to take advantage of.

I have mixed feelings about other things, though.  For one thing, the book I read did not come with page numbers, and I was surprised at how disconcerting I found that.  And I’m a little OCD about things, and so my brain kept looking at that bar that graphs the percentage of the book you’ve read and trying to do the math to turn it into a page number.  Tragically, math is not one of my strengths.  I can barely add and subtract.  I suppose I could look at this as an opportunity to improve my calculating skills, but honestly I’d rather have the page numbers.  Because not only do I have to figure out that if I’m 25% of the way through a 412 page book that that equals 103 pages, I then have to subtract 103 from 412 to figure out how many more pages I have left to enjoy, approximately.  I say approximately because I am unlikely to actually get that number right because–bad at math.  I can live with a ballpark figure, but frankly, that’s more math than I really want to be doing in my head.  It takes time away from actually reading the book.  Seriously, I am told that not all books lack page numbers in the Kindle editions, and it’s hardly a deal breaker, but for me, it was annoying.  I’m also accepting of the fact that not everyone is as neurotic about these things as I am and is therefore not likely to be so bothered by something like that.

I also found it a little awkward to hold, initially.  I suppose it really depends on one’s Usual Book Grasp for reading.  My personal grasp involves resting the book against the back of my hand with my thumb across the center along the bottom of the pages to hold them open.  My Kindle has a keyboard, and I kept accidentally sticking my thumb on the “home” button or the space bar.  It took me a while to find a comfortable Kindle Hold (I’d tell you how long it took in page numbers, but I’d have to do more math, sorry), and even then I kept shifting it around.  Somewhere around 80% in (83 pages left to enjoy!) I finally stopped fidgeting with it.  But I was always aware that while I was reading a book, I was not actually holding a book, but a book delivery system.  Which is fine.  I’m not that neurotic.  Maybe.

I’d also tell you what I think of putting an electronic device to sleep (I felt like I should tuck it up with a warm blankey and a soft toy) and waking it up (“Kindle, Kiiiiindle, wake up Kindle…”) but again, you really don’t need to know just how neurotic I am.  I’ve already given you a good idea of that.

I will say this: I’m probably always going to prefer physical books to the Kindle.  There is an irreplaceable tactile experience involved with a well-worn and well-loved paperback, and to me, there is little more exciting than the smell of a brand new book. I know it’s just me, really.  And I will use this, a lot, honestly.  It’s convenient, easy to operate, and easy to read. But as an exclusive method for reading, for me, it’s just not going to work, because it’s really not the same experience for me.

That’s not to say it’s a bad one.  It’s just a different experience.  And likely it will be good for me too.  I mean, I can’t stay la-la-ing away in 1985 forever, no matter how much I’d like to.

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