For the past few summers, my wife, Joan and I have gone to the south of France for two weeks’ vacation. We stay somewhere in the Languedoc region, close to the Mediterranean – it is not as busy as several other parts of France, and the weather is persistently and dependably sunny. For two weeks we simply live the life of a French village, going to the bakery in the morning for croissants and pain chocolat, for lunch making a rudimentary picnic of cheese and tomatoes and sausage and bread and apricots, and for dinner dining at some small local restaurant we have spent some time driving or walking around to find.
And we read. I am an incurable reader If books were a drug, I would be in treatment. I take about ten books for this two-week stint, which more or less tides me over. One book for the trip over, one book for the trip back, and eight for the fourteen days in between.
I always try to travel as light as I can; you can imagine how much weight these books add to a suitcase. This past summer, I experimented and borrowed our son Rodger’s Kindle. It was loaded with about a dozen books of my choosing, and it weighed less than a paperback. I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy the “feel” of reading on an electronic device. A Kindle, unlike a computer, is not backlit with a bright screen, but instead uses a technology called electronic ink. You actually need another source of light to read it. A friend of mine, upon hearing that I was thinking of leaving behind the printed page, commented that he couldn’t quite imagine that it is satisfying to curl up with an electronic device the way you can with a book.
You can curl up. At least I can. Since I am one of those people who tends to read several books at a time, now I didn’t have to carry along several books, I just had to hit a couple of keys, and the other book was available on the screen, bookmarked where I had left off. I didn’t have to turn the book over on a flat surface when I was interrupted, wearing out the spine or dog-earing the pages. Just close the cover that came with this particular Kindle.
This past fall I bought one of my own. I won’t give up on the “real thing” of course. Not all the books I want to read are available for the Kindle, especially Canadian authors. I suspect though, that as these devices become more common (and I don’t think it much matters if you use a Kindle, a Nook, a Sony Reader, or an iPad), nearly all new books will automatically be published in both hard and electronic copies. One of the other great benefits is that I can do my browsing for new books without leaving my armchair, if I so choose.
It has now reached the point (actually, it quickly reached this point) where I don’t think about the medium at all, electronic or paper – it is simply reading, as I have always done it, with the same pleasure. For those who read this blog occasionally, I am contemplating adding a little box on the right side of this page (known as a “widget” in blogging parlance), entitled “What I am reading now”. I am even thinking others could contribute. So watch this space!