Monday, January 2, 2012

Eating Crow after Christmas: Why I Guess I Don't Really Absolutely Hate e-Readers Anymore

by Jacqueline Fauni

I am by no means retracting all of what I said in my previous post on the subject, and I'm not even writing this because my feelings have radically changed, but perhaps I was a bit too harsh and hasty in saying I despise e-readers.

I was compelled (coerced, really) to re-evaluate my views when I received the Hunger Games trilogy for Christmas. I had been dying to read the series, and placed it at the very top of my two-item wishlist (the other item being the 2011 version of JANE EYRE on Blu-ray). Come Christmas morning, I open a card from my parents, in which I find a slip of paper simply saying, "The Hunger Games..." Confused, I look over at my mom, and that's when, with an evil grin (okay, not really), she brings out her Kindle.

My mom, who had been pestering me for months to use her cursed Kindle, had gotten me The Hunger Games, alright -- with electronic strings attached. The horror!

While she went on about how much she wanted me to borrow her Kindle and swore I'd love it if I just tried it out, and that she'd be happy to get me one if I did, I repeatedly pressed at the screen and grew quickly frustrated by its infuriating lack of response... before my mom pointed out the arrow keys and reminded me that it wasn't a touch screen. Oh. Right.

So my sentimental, anti-e-reader principles were reluctantly set aside. As I expected, I missed (and still do!) the physicality of a real book -- its weight, how it would fit just right in my hands, the strangely satisfying texture of its pages, the ease with which I could flip through it. But if I was itching to indulge in a Hunger Games binge, I'd have to endure. And so I grumbled and sighed and resigned myself to the Kindle's soulless buttons.

However, even the Kindle couldn't detract from the thrill of reading a great series for the first time. As I devoured the first two books, the bane of my existence slowly became an object I haven't allowed myself to keep too far out of reach. And I suppose, with this positive association with The Hunger Games, the Kindle has forced me to be a bit more open-minded about it.

While immersing myself in the world of Hunger Games, I discovered a curious Kindle feature called "highlights." With Kindle, readers have the ability to highlight their favorite quotes, and those that are particularly popular are marked as such in all Kindles. It's so fascinating to see what passages many other readers feel compelled to highlight. Like my previous admission about the usefulness of reading Amazon reviews, Kindle's highlights feature bears a form of communal spirit that is unique to online communities of readers. Reading these underlined quotes, and knowing they are highlighted because hundreds of readers find significance in them, brings a special, powerful emphasis to the author's words, and gives us a glimpse of that magical connection between author and readers.  And that, I must admit, is pretty romantic.

Though I still miss the physicality and cover art of books (because I must confess I am one of those people who lets books' covers largely dictate my first impressions of their content), and I still don't see a great fit for e-readers in building a personal library (with shelves and all the trimmings) or enjoying a leisurely afternoon of perusing and stumbling upon hidden treasures in a bookstore, I think I'm kind of starting to get used to this newfangled contraption. 

Is it possible to develop Stockholm Syndrome for an object?

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