My husband and kids gave me a Kindle for my birthday this year. It is--and I say this with all due respect to laptops, I-phones, spinning wheels, interchangeable needles, and awesome camera lenses--the coolest thing EVER. It wasn't exactly a surprise. I've wanted it ever since it came out a few years ago. But I was waiting for the second generation Kindle to come out, and its appearance was delayed and delayed and delayed.... It finally came out earlier this year, and I told my family point blank that they could get it for my birthday or I would buy it myself. I don't believe in subtle hints.
Although it's not something I talk about here, I love to read. I have been reading obsessively for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I had a deal with the local librarian. The library allowed a person to check out ten books at a time. But I only got to go to the library once a week, and ten books wasn't enough. So she gave me a brown paper grocery bag and told me I could check out as many books as would fit in the bag, as long as I could carry it. I filled that bag up every week.
My childhood friends shared my love for reading. We would "play" every day after school. More often than not, our play took the form of flopping on the floor and reading, side by side. When we weren't reading, we were writing our own stories and reading them to each other. I had exhausted the elementary school library before I reached sixth grade.
In high school, I spent a year in Germany as a foreign exchange student. I didn't speak a word of German before I arrived, but left completely fluent--largely because of the hours and hours I spent discovering all the great German literature that my new language abilities opened for me.
My first college degree is in literature. I started with English and German, but quickly added Russian to the mix. I worked at a software company when I wasn't in class, and I spent nearly every spare penny at Harvard Book Store and Schoenhof's Foreign Books. Graduate school, law school, and extensive travel only added to the mix.
All of this reading and book collecting has led to a house stuffed full of books. I have bookcases in nearly every room, and all of them are overflowing. I have books in baskets under my bed and books in piles in the closet. I have books in the bathrooms and the kitchen. When I had kids, I started buying children's books in earnest. And since the kids are turning out to be nearly as voracious in their reading habits as their mother, you can imagine how the collection has grown in twelve years.
But technology is a miraculous thing. This little device, which, complete with it's sturdy leather cover, weighs less than a pound, and slides easily into my purse, can hold 1500 books at one time, with unlimited storage of even more books online. And if you want a new book, you can press a button to access the entire Kindle library via broadband in only seconds and download any of its more than 300,000 books directly to the device in just a few seconds! It also has a built-in dictionary that allows you to click on any word in the text and get an instant definition. And you can make "margin notes", bookmark passages, and do almost all the things you might do with a paper book. It automatically keeps track of where you are in the text and opens to the correct page. It is not backlit, like a computer screen; the screen looks almost like real paper (no eye strain). And it runs for days on a single charge.
Just imagine the possibilities! Go on vacation with only one little device instead of packing four or five paperbacks (like I do). Stick it in your purse and you always have a full range of reading material at hand, whether you're stuck in traffic, waiting at the doctor's office, or have an unexpected hour free. Download children's books and have instant distraction at hand, wherever you may find yourself and the impatient little darlings. Instantly check out the latest by your favorite author--no waiting for it to hit the library or come out in paperback. Amazing. Just...amazing.
I will always love "real" books. I love the way they feel, I love the way they smell, I love they way they wear with time and reading. I won't be getting rid of my hard copy library. But being able to take it all with me, everywhere I go, in one little device--how can you beat that?