Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Digital Beaches

Before I was in school, when the library was a storefront full of metal shelves, pale linoleum, and an odd entrance fountain, joy in reading has been linked to the physical sensation of the books themselves. Paper edges that fur as you thumb them, spines that relax as you bend them, and ink and air and paper that combine into a certain smell that breathes over you when you ruffle the pages. Books could be a type of pet, carried around and cared for.

This doesn't make me a great candidate for digital readers. My eyes are tired from years of reading, low contrast screens don't help, and there is something about that glass window that doesn't yet let me in as deeply as the crease between the pages. However, some stories do lend themselves to the medium and I'm discovering that my gateway into digital books is through an unexpected avenue.

Despite being a lifelong reader, romance novels were something that I gave up years ago, never making the leap from Sweet Valley to the historical or contemporary shelves. Instead, I gravitated to the fantasy and mystery shelves and then, slowly, to the literary fiction shelves and essays. Then, romance decided to make a beachhead in fantasy and urban fantasy and paranormal romance began to move into the section. Books seemed to suddenly bloat, trying to distinguish themselves from those "other" stories by way of excessive page count or hyper violence. I thought I should get serious about my own writing and shifted my reading into non-fiction.

During this time my husband has been consuming e-books like candy. He reads on his reader, on his cell phone, on his screen. I tried a reader, eschewed it, and stuck to books. Then we found a reader that I could play with, do other things on, become comfortable with all without using it for reading. I could IM, follow my e-mail, play Frogs (become addicted to Frogs, go cold turkey on Frogs), and write on the thing.

At the same time, a few members of our writer's group started to work in the romance genre. There was no one left to object to this turn of events (not to say that anyone would have originally) and I found myself taking a second look at the genre.

Shazaam! This turned into the perfect mix of device and story to finally convert me to the e-reader. Having recently completed the fun Gaming for Keeps and well into The Other Woman, it seems that I'm finally learning warming up to digital books.

However, I'm still mostly a book-in-hand reader. In addition to the stories mentioned above, I read Garth Nix's Sabriel over the weekend (paperback, of course) and loved it. It is a compelling story and one that I'm glad I have sitting beside me at the moment, reminding me of the great story within. It's the kind of book that warrants rereading, if for no other reason than that the world-building is stellar and different from what I've seen before.

Perhaps the digital/paperback divide in my head runs like this: Paperbacks are the Old Kingdom; their magic is real and substantial and links me to the past while digital books are Ancelstierre; they work best when structured around a recognizable, social milieu whose present is concurrent with my own? Not sure if that makes sense or if it will continue to be that way, but that's how it works for me, for now.

Good reading,

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