Saturday, January 8, 2011

Damn you, Kindle!

Even though I think of myself as a reader, I rarely buy books (too expensive), and I don't use the public library either (bedbugs, lice, germs).

I subscribe to the New Yorker, a weekly commitment to the written word, and one I take seriously.

I download pre-1923 classics from Project Gutenberg onto my iPod Touch. This is particularly convenient for works that in the real world are too heavy to transport comfortably but in the virtual world are weightless—Trollope, George Eliot—or that I don't want to read cover to cover but might like to sample on the subway or in the doctor's office—T.S. Eliot, yoga tracts.

For contemporary works, I rely partly on critics in my workplace who don't share my tastes and discard their review copies on the floor outside their office doors, but mostly on my friend B (and to some extent my friend A), who lends me the books she has pretested and found to be right up my alley. This has been a perfect system, at least for me. One hundred percent free on my end. All books screened for fatal cases of breast cancer or other unfortunate themes. Plus B's tastes and mine match up 99% of the time, so I am pretty much guaranteed that every book I read will be a pleasure.

But a fly has crept into that precious intellectual ointment: B was given a Kindle as a gift. It is the fatal flaw of electronic readers that they cannot be loaned without disadvantage to their owners. Her gain is most assuredly my loss.

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