So Lynn asked whether I usually read paper books or ebooks. Everybody say "Hi, Lynn", and then go over to her blog like I just did and get lost in a mini-wormhole of tiny potatoes and cool picture books (what's with all the hat-stealing animals, WHAT'S WITH THEM?).
We all know what my principles are worth. I mean, odds are pretty good that I will stand staunchly by rules such as the No Drop-Kicking Babies Rule and the No Leaving Mean-Spirited Comments on Blog Posts or Online Articles Rule, and I'm pretty sure I'll never set anyone's house on fire ON PURPOSE (look, there was a lot of caramel spilled, it seemed reasonable to turn on the self-cleaning function and the flames were all out within ten minutes - fifteen, tops - the smoke detectors didn't even go off). But other than that, don't believe me. "I will never start a blog". "I will never join Twitter." "I will never speak in public unless my children are being held hostage at gunpoint." These are all words that have left my mouth, and well, here we are.
So I did say I wasn't crazy about the idea of ereaders, but I didn't really trust myself to abjure them for all time.
A couple of years ago my sister and I got my mom a Kindle for Christmas. My sister told me to order it well ahead of time and it came quickly, so I had it to play around with for a few weeks. I actually fully expected that I would fall in love with it, but I didn't, really. My mom loves it, and she and my dad then gave my husband one for his birthday - he loves it too, for travelling.
That said, once I had an ipad and put the Kindle and Overdrive Media apps on it, my feelings changed. I could develop a sudden burning need for a specific book and obtain it instantaneously - this is a very dangerous thing. There's also the handy fact that I can read late into the night without the light on, which is beneficial for my poor husband, who learned long ago to sleep with a reading light shining on the other side of the bed, and also for family trips when we're all sharing a hotel room.
The ipad is kind of heavy, though, so I can only read on it if I have a pillow or something to support it. And the fact that ebooks from the library disappear when they've expired is good from the point of view of my continuing effort to finance my own wing of the Ottawa Public Library, and because I don't actually have to drive them back, but once in a while it's really vexing - a few months back I was in the middle of a really good book by Mo Hayder, and I thought I had one day left; when I got into bed I realized it was just after midnight and GODDAMMIT! I had to wait weeks to get it back again and then reread most of what I had read, which actually turned into kind of a cool reading experience. But I'm kind of suspicious of any book that can become unattainable due to a low battery.
I try to limit myself severely in the Kindle store, because it's way too easy to spend way too much money way too quickly. I try to limit myself (less severely) to library ebooks because once I borrow them I feel obligated to read them, and when downloading on a whim it's easy to load up on unanticipated dreck, and it also multiplies my problem of loading up on library books which then need to be read within a specific time frame, while the books I actually own wait even longer. It's so intoxicating, though! I'm borrowing a book RIGHT NOW when it's not even REGULAR LIBRARY HOURS! It's like I'm a library cat thief!
So anything I'm just borrowing from the library or that I want to travel with or just make sure that I can access any time, I'm fine putting on my ipad. But if I really love a book, I want to own the book. I've also realized that I have this habit, when I'm reading a book, of stopping fairly frequently to look at the author photo. I'm not sure if it's to remind me of whose book I'm reading, or because my feeling of my communication with the author changes as I read, or if it's something completely unconscious, but I feel kind of thwarted when I remember that I'm reading a book that doesn't have an author photo, and an ebook rarely does.
There's also the fact that, once you buy a Kindle version of a book, it stays in the cloud forever (as far as I know). Last month when I realized that I had book club in two days and had neglected to obtain the book, I bought How Should a Person Be by Sheila Heti for Kindle. I thought this was great - I could read the book in time. Then I read it and hated it, I mean, HATED it, and realized that I could never get rid of it now - its indelible stain sits there putridly in my digital library for all time.
I'm also a frequent and happy lender of books. I love knowing that part of my collection is out there in the world being loved by my friends (or at least getting some kind of action). But again, if I read a book digitally and love it enough that it needs to be lent, I can just buy a copy.
I did read a rather silly article by someone who gave away all her books and just bought e-copies of them. The descriptions of setting her books free in the wild was amusing and whimsical, but the notion that this made her somehow less materialistic than someone who owned the real books was perplexing. I still want to live in a house with books in it. I still love beautiful covers and real, turnable pages. Ereaders just mean I can carry even more books to even more places and read even when it's dark. So it's all good.