Much like a small child or befuddled squirrel, I am enchanted by shiny objects. The Borders bookstore nearest me has decided to tempt me with a new shiny object, called The Sony Reader Digital Book. For $299, I could buy this pseudo-PDA that's about the size of a thin, trade paperback and stash more than 100 full-length books on it so I could read anything I wanted anytime, anywhere. Did I mention, too, that it’s shiny?
As appealing as the gadget is – it would definitely be easier on my back than cramming 75 novels into a carry-on bag – it brought up a pseudo-philosophical quandry for me: is reading too personal an act to leave to a machine? Now, you’re probably pointing at your computer screen right now, saying, “Hey Squirrel Woman, aren’t you already doing your reading on a machine?” Well, yes and no – also, I can’t believe you just called me Squirrel Woman. We’re supposed to be friends here! Anyway, certainly I get most of my news online and, um, all my web sites ‘cause that’s where they live. And I do all my reference material reading online, and I even look at pretty art online, but all that seems vastly different to me than the act of reading a book.
Books, to me, have always been like friends. (Which should tell you something about my social life.) They delve so deep into the mind of the author and the world that person has created, they can’t help but take on a life of their own. I feel like being able to switch between a hundred or so books with the click of a stylus would strip away part of that humanity and more importantly, that intellectual intimacy. There’s something about reading Tolstoy that says, “This is between you and me, Leo.” And I like that.
I've already given up vinyl records and CDs in lieu of my iPod and abandoned the multi-colored ink smears of a New York Times Sunday Magazine in favor of my laptop. But give up the heft and gloss and smell of a good paperback novel? Even if I had the $299 to buy that pretty, shiny Sony Reader, I just don't see it happening. Besides, how the hell would I dog-ear a titanium page?