Every good gardener knows the work you do in February pays off in May. But while I fondly remember wrapping up a manuscript last February, right now I’m fiddling with an electronic device instead of writing. I’m fluent in a slew of programming languages, I’m never intimidated by a new piece of software, and there are more computers than people in my house every day of the week, but my new eReader has me ready to chuck it all and declare myself a Luddite.
It arrived wrapped in shiny silver holographic paper, a thin electronic rectangle, light enough to hold with one hand. Except that two weeks later I would find it wasn’t really that light. In fact, after about twenty minutes of reading my hand fatigued. If I shifted to rest the device’s weight the orientation of the screen shifted from portrait to landscape. I lied to myself that I’d get used to that.
Reading the same novel I discovered something else, the clue to the mystery, the part Aunt Matilda’s eye color was it blue or brown? I didn’t have a good way to go back and check. My usual method of folding down the corner of the page didn’t translate at all the to electric screen. I could turn the electronic pages backwards, but without page numbers there was no way to find the clue.
And the worst part, without paper pages I had no way of knowing how far I’d read and how much I had left to go. I downloaded a trilogy, packaged as one book. When I checked how far in I was the screen told me I’d read 23% of the content. So if each book would be roughly 33%, I was somewhere around a little bit more than half of the first book, right? Call it two-thirds of the way through, did that mean I should stay up and finish or there was no way I would get to the end before I fell asleep?
I pushed my way through 4 novels, telling myself I was sure to learn to love the eReader eventually. I didn’t. The device sat idle, unloved, for a good two months. But then I stumbled on to a short story, sold only as an e-book, so I’m back at it. I look at my prized books, the hardback Dracula with gorgeous illustrations I unwrapped on my 13th birthday, the Yale Shakespeare I received at my college graduation, even the lowly pulp fiction noir novels from the 40s, and I know there’s no combination of settings that will ever replace them.