Thoughts on Books on the Shelf

ImageImageImageEven though I’m the owner of 2 iPads, a Kindle, and a Nook, yesterday I started reading a real book. Not a book from a bookstore, but a book I picked up out of my husband’s grandmother’s house, Frieda Putnam sometime around 1995.   She was about 85 years old, living in a duplex  in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania with a bookshelf filled with dozens of books purchased at used  stores, rummage sales, or handed over from friends.  She was moving into an old-age home and insisted that I take some of her books since I would “appreciate them”.

I remember selecting a handful of books just to humor her.  To make her feel that  these books she had so lovingly collected would actually mean something to me or someone in the future.  I chose five books.  The first was Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Dafoe. I figured that my son Ben, who was then 4 years old would enjoy reading it when he was a teenager.  The second was a Children’s Anthology of Poetry and Nursery Rhymes. My daughter Cate was 2 and I thought I could read it to her at bedtime. The third was a  learn-to-draw book published in the 1940’s. Frieda grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch country, but she said that her father had been a famous artist / photographer in San Francisco.  He may have been associated with this book somehow.  The fourth was Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Suzanne.  I’d seen the cheesy movie and thought this might be a fun beach read.    The last was a book I really wanted to read, The Drifters by James Michener.  I’m not sure why this book attracted me, but it did. Certainly the cover art wasn’t a big sell!

Fast forward to today. Since that day in Lansdowne, PA in 1995 we’ve lived in Philadelphia, Dallas, Boston, and now San Francisco. And the books have followed us,  sadly undisturbed for 15 years, just waiting to be read.

Yesterday was the big day. I wanted a book.  A real book. And there on the shelf was The Drifters.  Based in 1968, it tells the story of 6 diverse teenagers finding themselves exotic locations from Spain to Africa finding the meaning of life.  At page 150, something fluttered out of the book. It was a utility bill from Maine in 1972. This got me wondering about the man William Swadel in Orono, Maine who’d originally bought the book.    By page 300 something else appeared. A folded up American History test. Apparently that Mr. Ahearn was a real toughy.

I know the world has moved on to digital and I’m there, too, but honestly, nothing can beat a real book. The wonder of where the book has been. The joy of imagining everyone who has read it before me. A shared experience – over decades and miles. Only fitting that the book that inspired this was The Drifters.

Any book, any time, any where?

I’ve been an avid reader my whole life.  In fact, I still have my library card from the Garrett Park Public Library. It’s paper, my name is hand written in blue ball point pen and it’s signed by the librarian, Mrs. Dewey (like the Dewey Decimal System). I’m looking at a stack of 6 books on my table.  Actual printed books.

  1. Let the Right One In. Purchased for $14.95 at the Borders store in Honolulu.
  2. The Girl Who Played with Fire. Purchased for $15.99 at the Borders store in Union Square.
  3. A Reliable Wife. Purchased at JFK Airport for $14.95.
  4. The Swan Thieves. Purchased at the Barnes & Noble store in Corte Madera.
  5. Some god awful Nora Roberts book. Purchased at Oakland Airport for too much.
  6. The  Botany of Desire. Purchased at The Depot Book store in Mill Valley for $12.99.

I used the first generation of Sony Reader. I loved the idea of access to thousands of books without having to carry around thousands of books when I travelled.  I found the reading experience to be really good, but ultimately gave up on it because I never seemed to have the right book downloaded at the right time. And I still went to bookstores. Often.

Then I used the first generation of Kindle. I loved the one-clickness of Amazon and getting any kind of book almost instantaneously. I loved the reading experience, too and began to get into having more than one book going at a time without carrying it around.  What I didn’t like was getting on a 12 hour flight only to discover that the the battery was dead. And I hated not being able to send the book I had just read to my mom in Maryland.  I still went to bookstores. Often.

Now it seems like everyday there’s another newsflash about e-Books. “Oprah’s Loves the Kindle!”  “Oprah’s impressed by the iPad!” “iPad replacing Book Reading!” “e-Books on the iPhone!” “Kindle App for Smart Phone” ,  “Nook outsells Kindle last month”  “e-Books on every platform”  and on and on.

This got me thinking about jumping back into the e-reader market.  I’m not going to do a product review here because based on the previous paragraph, no one really needs another review of these devices, but here’s what I discovered for and about  myself after doing some research.

  1. I love going to bookstores and having an e-reader shouldn’t stop me. In fact, if I buy the Nook I can go into any Barnes & Noble store, read any book they carry (which is millions) for free in-store and instantly download it.
  2. The iPad is awesome like everyone says, but it’s not the best reading experience for me. If you’re a serious reader, read a book, the Kindle, or Nook. And I hear the new Plastic Logic reader is pretty amazing, too.
  3. If you want to be able to read your e-books on any device – iPhone, PC, e-reader – you can.  I still can’t imagine reading a book on my iPhone or PC, but it can be done.
  4. You can actually share digital books you’ve purchased from Barnes & Noble for two weeks.  I guess if I buy a Nook, I’ll be getting my Mom one, too.
  5. There is no replacement for the bookstore.  Still the happiest place on earth (sorry Disneyland)

One of the e-book companies has a slogan “any book, any time, anywhere” or something like that.  That’s kind of my motto anyway, but I do think that this generation of iPad, Nook, and Kindle may really deliver.

If you have an experience with e-readers, I’d love to hear about it!