I got a Kindle from Santa last Christmas. I was watched anxiously by both husband and daughter as I ripped open the wrapping, then another layer of wrapping (they like a bit of build-up in my house), and then another, before finally revealing the neat, flat, efficient-looking latest aid or toy (depending on your viewpoint). I was surprised and pleased. Straight away I buzzed off on-line to order a collection of short stories. Months passed. Four, in fact, by which time my husb remarked that it was taking me a long time to get through the stories of – let’s call her Ms M. He was right about this. I didn’t know whether to blame the Kindle or the stories, and initially had been inclined to blame the former. I missed the feel of a book. I missed the possiblity of making notes. I do like to handle books, smell print on paper, all that old sensuous stuff we’ve all grown up with. But – in the end I decided not to attempt to read Ms M’s short stories and to carry on blithely. I ordered two novels. It doesn’t matter what they were. Okay then, I ordered Zoe Heller’s The Believers, and that other one, The Help, plus a Philip Roth I’d missed out on. So, Kindle in hand I went off to Sligo where I was teaching American students doing a low-residency programme in Creative Writing. We were based out near Lough Gill and when the day’s work was over I often had time to head off to the beach. One afternoon at STrand Hill, when it was too breezy and a little too cool to sit on the beach, I parked myself in the car, facing seawards, and switched on the Kindle. It was bliss! Every half-hour or so I looked up and let my eye rest on the surfers who were cresting and diving, tumbling and curling in the huge breakers. But in between was my coming to my senses regarding the Kindle. It worked for me. I forgot about pages and needing to feel pages, instead becoming sucked in to the novel. And so I read and read.
The thing is, our house is falling down with books. Only last January, after receiving the Kindle, I did a major clear-up and off-loaded case loads of books in Chapters in Parnell St, and also in a selection of charity shops. Some of it was good stuff, but material none of us would read again. And there’s only so much time, and only so much you can remember!
So the Kindle is my alternative library now. I can stock hundreds of titles – maybe more, I haven’t read everything in the booklet – if I want to, and file it and organise it and do anything I want in terms of make it a personalised and easily accessible library. And what I love is that I no longer have to cart four or five novels on holidays with me, adding unnecessary weight and making the return journey home, when certain purchases have been made, a pain in the neck.
I do wonder what will be next though. I imagine sometimes that holography will play a strong role in our reading, and that the virtual experience will be quite different again. Kindle is just a first step into something that is really exciting. Ask Santa for one this year.