Critical Mass

Adventures in E-Reading: Guest Post from Beth Kanell

By Beth Kanell

Over the next month or so we're going to be offering a new series of guest posts (read the first series,”The Next Decade in Book Culture here). Our question: How are you handling the rise of the e-book? Are you reading on Kindle, the Sony Reader, the Vook, have you reserved an iPad?  Are you buying e-books? Reading e-galleys? And how's it working out for you? Let us know your quibbles, quirks, happy and not so happy adventures in e-reading.This post is from NBCC member and author Beth Kanell.


I have lust in my heart.

It's a shame, I'm sure, but what else could anyone expect? Watching my city-dwelling sons browse the New York Times on their iPhones was hard enough — there is no 3G service in the mountainous part of Vermont where I live, and no real forecast of when that might change. And even though we know all the local restaurants, and in most cases their owners and even the children of the owners, those advertisements for finger-flicking powerfully among restaurant listings on your hand-held phone/computer/partner in life make us wonder what we're missing.

But it's the ads for the iPad that drive me into frenzied longing. Here at last is a surface where book pages could be as alluring as in the printed book. Here is a world where e-reading will finally make sense, as I curl around the brightly lit screen where stories can unfold as wide, welcoming pages. I can feel the surge of anticipation as I click onto the “Details” page for the product listing online. My cheeks heat with that flush that makes women of a certain age look as though they once had a youth. If I could enter this new world of e-relationship, I just know things would work out.

Online reviewing turned half the readers in my world into critics — and the other half into self-educated consumers, scanning the comments about a book on Amazon before deciding whether to purchase it. Is it likely that “doggysaggy” sees a new mystery as I would, or does the moniker betray how different we are in our top ten picks? I scan lists, searching for the book lovers bold enough to use their real names, hoping to find one that I recognize in the crowd. It happens sometimes.

But this consumption of other people's opinions is mere speed-dating compared to what I envision when I can reach the point — like the Milennial Generation — of giving myself permission to blow a health insurance payment on the roses-and-chocolate purchase of that armful of book screen. Reading is the woof to my warp, the fabric of my thoughts, the road that draws me to new vistas. I need the fluid presence of e-books, a sweet youthful slimness that will replace the heavily laden shelves and stacks of dear old-fashioned paper-and-cloth books that surround me.

I have to get ready. There's still time to shave my legs before the e-doorbell rings.