Twenty years ago, when I was first married and living in a strange city I had very little chance to get my hands on books. I knew of two libraries within driving distance–Thompson Lane and Donelson. Both were small and musty, their collections very limited. The only bookstores I knew of were Davis-Kidd (Requiescat in Pacie, Gracie’s Plaza location) and the Waldenbooks on the lower level of Hickory Hollow Mall. I subsisted on the occasional paperback frontlist title and a lot of re-reads of the books I either brought with me in boxes heavier than bricks or borrowed from the decrepit branch libraries in my neck of the woods.
But any book, unless you owned it already, was a chore to obtain. With both of us working either night or swing shifts and only owning one car, the time we had to get to a bookstore was nearly as limited as our money. Going to a bookstore became our big date, our huge event and there were a lot of weeks where I got by the long tedium of selling airline tickets over the phone to people with Sears cards by dreaming of a quick drive to Waldenbooks and a gyro at the food court.
Of course once you were AT the bookstore you had to contend with the fact that there were so few ACTUAL books. You read what the dealers told you to read; if you were lucky and talkative you’d make friends with store clerks who would pass along recommendations. That way you’d at least get to taste something other than the mass market stuff that came in cardboard stander displays.
You know, I know that not everyone is priviledged enough to own a Kindle. It’s still an upper market device. i don’t know if my twenty-one year old self could’ve afforded it. But I do know this. Kindle is the best tool a reader has. Because now you can lay your hands on a book mere seconds after thinking of it. No longer does “I think I might want to read that” have to be followed by a jot on a sticky note, a wait for an evening free and a drive across town to a store that might or might not have it. And no longer are you stuck with just what few titles the marketing people have paid to put in front of you. When you select one book you can see right away what other books like it other folks have read.
Reading a book and laying your hands on more books to read has now officially become EASIER THAN WATCHING TV. So moan all you like about the death of paper and missing the old format (as if you were still reading from scrolls!) and the technology not feeling right.
The fact of the matter is that reading is once again, after a century of lying near dormant in the shadow of film, becoming a primary leisure activity.