True confession: we love e-books. At first we were wary, but in the zips we began to read free books on a palm pilot (a friend in a book group told me about the palm pilot). Everybody back then was saying the e-book would bring down the book. Well, that proved to be hysteria: a financial issue in the industry. Still, when I bought a Nook tablet in 2011, I wondered if it was too “space-age.”
While my mother was in the hospital, I found the “space-age” e-reader convenient. I was forever going back and forth to her house to fetch things (a mirror, tweezers, special soap, a fleece throw, a pack of cards), and the Nook fit in my purse. I did not neglect real books: I dashed around the block to an excellent used bookstore (now defunct) and bought a copy of Flora Thompson’s trilogy of memoirs, Larkspur to Candleford. I discovered e-readers are excellent for hospitals, books better for staying at Mom’s house.
I have happily read dozens of e-books over the years. The only problem is: they don’t give you much idea of the physical book. I have an e-galley of Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain, which is longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. Somehow, I had the impression it was a short book. At the store I was astonished to see it is a chunky book, with 430 pages. Wow! The percentages and locations at the bottom of the e-pages didn’t help me visualize at all.
People have embraced their space-age e-readers, but is reading on a cell phone going too far? (And are they still called cell phones?) In 2016, Sarah Boxer wrote an essay for The Atlantic about reading Proust on her phone. Fascinating, but I prefer a landline… Wait, there’s no screen!