Kindling A Romance

On Tuesday morning, our mail carrier knocked at the door with a small package from Amazon: my new Kindle! Ranger Sue was actually the one who suggested getting it– “You need either a Kindle or an iPad”– and after doing some checking, I decided a dedicated e-reader would be more congenial to me than the iPad, not to mention one-third the cost.

When the gadget first came out, I’d pretty much dismissed it as merely a sales tool for Amazon: “Buy any book for only $9.99!” Nah, that’s okay, thanks. But what turned me 180 degrees was finding out about the astounding selection of copyright-free books available from sources like Project Gutenburg and Bartleby.com, all free or nearly free.

This may sound thoroughly cheap, but stop for a moment and consider: my bookshelves are packed with hundreds of Signet and Penguin paperbacks, bought decades ago when my eyes were young. All sorts of literature, from my beloved Greeks and Romans, through Shakespeare, all the way up to Twain and beyond; and all in tiny type. Reading glasses help somewhat, but even so, burying myself in these books is no longer the pleasure it once was.

Well, guess what? I can download all that stuff now! And make the type as big as I want! Woo-hoo!

The selection is not just the big names, either; rather it seems like Project Gutenberg in particular offers everything ever written before 1923. There are dozens of authors about whom I’ve harbored mild curiosity, but whose books are not even to be found through inter-library loan without major effort. Now it’s a matter of two or three mouse clicks, a minute or two of download time, et voila– the text on my screen.

To repeat myself: woo-hoo!

And if it turns out I don’t like the book, I can delete it and make room for others. (Yes, I’m talking about you, G.A. Henty.) But with a nominal capacity of 1500 books, I suspect it will be a while before space becomes an issue.

There’s one other thing: the Kindle stirs a memory.

Thirty-three years ago,  Ranger Sue and I pulled up our East Coast roots, dumped all our junk in a storage unit, and drove with two dogs in a small car to start a new life in Sequoia National Park.  By that point, we’d already been married several years, and in addition to the usual household gear, had shelves upon shelves full of books and LP records.  One of the most traumatic parts of the move was boxing up all the records, and winnowing through the  books to decide which few we could take along.

Even being ruthless– so we thought– when we finally departed, we got about two miles down the road and realized the chassis was nearly dragging the pavement. If this Conestoga were ever going to make California, we’d have to jettison some weight. Fortunately, after a quick and embarrassing about-face, my mother-in-law’s attic served in place of the Platte River.

It was two years before I saw my records, and all but a few books, again.

If we’d only had iPods and Kindles in those days!

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4 Responses to Kindling A Romance

  1. Nan says:

    I hadn’t thought about the ability to make small type legible. That’s a major point in the Kindle’s favor.

  2. Ranger Bob says:

    Funny, the factors we find significant these days.

  3. DaveO says:

    I played with a Sherlock Holmes book on my bro in law’s Ipad. Interesting stuff and the fact that you could blow the thing up to 24 point type was great. It just didn’t have that musty book smell or 60# offset paper feel however. Plus I have that pulp sale out in the western part of the county and I’d hate for pulp prices to plummet………..

  4. Ranger Bob says:

    Indeed. But you know what? One of my most treasured possessions is a beautiful complete set of Sir Walter Scott’s novels that Ranger Sue bought used and gave me for my birthday when we were young and poor. We’ve hauled those books all around the country, and they occupy several honored feet on my shelves. I’ll keep those books until I die.

    But six chapters in, I’m getting a huge kick out re-reading Ivanhoe on the screen. I see the two media as co-existing, at least under this roof.

    And as long as there’s a National Park Service, there will be a market for paper.

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