April 7, 2011


My kids gave me an e-reader, a Nook, for my 75th birthday. So, instead of a book review essay this month, I felt compelled to write something about e-books and those gadgets that are used to read and store them.

For quite a while I had wanted to experience what it was like reading a book on an e-reader, but I was not going to buy a reader, no sir, because I disliked the things from the time the first one hit the market. Taking the advice of that cliché “don’t knock it until you’ve tried it,” and since it was a gift, I decided to try the Nook.

That the e-reader can hold thousands of books does not impress me. I can read only one book at time, and I can’t touch or see the books on the reader as I can those on my bookshelves. I also don’t like the fact that I might not even own the books I paid $9.00 for. As I understand it, at least from Amazon.com, the seller of the books can delete them from the reader at any time.

The Nook had 100 books already stored on it that are in the public domain and that can be downloaded for free from the Gutenberg web site. I had read and had most of them on my bookshelves. I deleted most of them and chose to read Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, which I had not read.

My  Nook is black and about 4.75 inches wide and 7.5 inches long. The screen is 3.5 inches wide and 5.00 inches long. It is in other words about the size of a paperback book. The home, menu, shop, and back buttons are on the left edge, and in the lower right corner is a big button with small raised dots that are used to turn the pages and resize the text. The on-off switch is on the top right edge.

It requires two hands, one to hold it and the other to push the various buttons. Having to push the tiny buttons to turn pages is rather awkward for me. I miss the rattle of turning paper pages, the imaged smell of ink,  and trying to keep from breaking the spine of new books. Although I don’t like writing in the margins of books, I do it anyway when a thought about a word, paragraph, or idea hits my mind as I’m reading. I can’t do that with e-readers.

I confess that I read faster with the large text and the small screen of my Nook. Still, it isn’t enough to endear me to e-readers.

I’m not one to deplore change. I welcome it. I don’t dislike technological changes and the new gadgets they produce. I welcome the gadgets and I enjoy trying them out.

When I was younger, I rode the bus from Richmond, California across the Bay Bridge to my job in San Francisco. During that ride, I read a good many books in paperback. I imagine that if I had had an e-reader in those days, I would have gladly welcomed it.