June 19, 2013
Written by Joe Pisani
Monday, 07 December 2009 16:52
Maybe because I have thousands of books stored in a barn in New Hampshire, or maybe because I have hundreds more at home, piled on the floor and stacked perilously high on my nightstand about to topple, or maybe because I just wanted to be cool, I did the unthinkable — at least the “unthinkable” for a dinosaur who loves the smell and feel of paper.
In a moment of temporary insanity, I bought an “e-book reader,” one of those high-tech electronic gadgets where sentences magically appear on a screen, and there are no pages to turn. And if I’m really lazy, it will read to me in a voice that sounds a little like a Munchkin on heavy medication.
It can hold about 1,500 titles, so I no longer have to carry a satchel filled with books back and forth to Manhattan in the delusion I might actually read them on the train.
With this gadget, buying books is as simple as pressing a button and ordering from an electronic book store in outer space, somewhere near Uranus. Then, it pops up on the screen faster than my Visa bill.
During the past two weeks, I’ve bought more than 700 classics, which cost a few pennies apiece — everything Dickens wrote for $1, all of Dostoevsky for $1, not to mention Tolstoy and the other long-winded Russians.
I used to scoff at electronic books because I enjoy turning pages, writing in margins and occasionally caressing a leather binding.
I’ve had a lifelong love affair with books, from the first one I bought back in the 1960s — a collection of horror stories by Joseph Payne Brennan — to my vintage copy of James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” which was published in Paris by Shakespeare and Co. because it was banned in America.
You see, I suffer from a peculiar mental disorder known as “bibliomania,” which was first diagnosed when I was in high school and began making weekly pilgrimages to the Open Book Store in Bridgeport, where I spent all my hard-earned minimum wages from cutting lawns.
Over the years, this compulsion took me to hundreds of bookstores, and my favorites have always been independents like Somerset Books, Just Books, Suzanne’s, Yale Co-op, the Remarkable Book Shop, Whitlock’s Book Barn and Haslam’s.
But I realize we dinosaurs have to evolve, or we’ll get stuffed and carted away to the Museum of Natural History.
Even though I still love paper books, my new toy can hold an entire library and lets me read a chapter of Dickens and then switch to Coleridge or the Bible or Jane Austen or Stephen King by simply pressing a button.
Plus, I don’t have to worry about straining my back carrying all those books or straining my dinosaur eyes, because my e-reader lets me adjust the type size.
Nevertheless, it can’t compete with the sublime pleasure of being surrounded by hundreds of books — on the floor, on the desk, on the shelves and yes, on the nightstand.
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