Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kindling a Flame

I've never made it a secret that I have had a lifelong affair with books. From a very young age, books fascinated me. I would badger my poor parents every night to read to me, so much so that my mother eventually read a bunch of my favorite books onto tape so that she could hit "play" and leave me to fall asleep. She also made sure that I learned to read at a very early age (again, I suspect it was to spare her the ongoing demands to read MORE, Mommy, MORE!). By the time I was in first grade, I was reading several grades above my peers. I would walk out of the library with a stack of books and finish them within days. As an adult, the affair has intensified. I honestly shudder to think how many thousands of dollars I have spent on books over the course of my life. I can't even begin to estimate how many books I own. They are hidden in just about every nook and cranny in my house. It's kind of an illness.

In the past year or so, there has been something coming between me and my great love. No, not my busy schedule. Even when I am working insanely long hours, I've always set aside the last 20 or so minutes of the day to read a little bit before I go to sleep. No, this third wheel is more of an issue than my hectic lifestyle and workaholic tendencies. The third wheel is my eyes. You see, over the past several months, I've taken note of the fact that reading has become a bit more challenging for me -- so much so that I've taken to keeping a pair of reading glasses by my bed to help ease the job a little. (I wear glasses normally, but I am nearsighted. My prescription for that does nothing to help my inability to read things close to me.) I've been putting off a trip to the eye doctor because my fear is that the diagnosis will be bifocals. I am completely at ease with turning 40, but I am totally NOT okay with wearing bifocals. Not yet.

My vision also created challenges for me at the gym. I've found that if I read while on the elliptical, I can go for a much longer time -- which is ultimately better for my body since it's getting more cardio. I don't wear my glasses when I work out, but I can't hold the book close enough to read easily while literally sweating my butt off. There's also the added hassle of trying to get the book to stay open on the little shelf-y thing. I tried reading magazines, but there was the struggle of the pages blowing in the fans that are aimed at the cardio area to keep us from dying of heat stroke. Plus, the print size was an issue. Because of the distance from my eyes to the shelf-y and the fact that I don't wear my glasses to work out, I often struggled to read. And that 45-plus minutes on the elliptical started to feel longer and longer every day. God bless little Bruiser Woods, but music just wasn't enough to keep my mind off the monotony of 45 minutes of walking in place.

And a couple weeks ago, the solution suddenly hit me. It was so obvious ... and so incredibly difficult to accept. It would involve swallowing some pride and taking back some things I'd said in the past. It would mean surrendering to the enemy.

It would mean buying a Kindle.

I spent several weeks thinking it over, weighing the pros and cons. I could fit entire libraries in my workout bag. It would fit perfectly on the elliptical. I could adjust the text size and my eyes wouldn't be an issue in my reading any more.

But then...what about the stacks of books I own that I've not read yet? After railing against how technology was killing books, I'd be a hypocrite for embracing that technology, right?

But.....libraries....whole ones....one bag!!!

Sunday, I headed to Target. I literally spent an hour roaming around the store, debating with myself whether or not to take the plunge. I walked by the Kindle case probably ten times, looking at it, thinking it over, and then I'd head over to the lamps to think about it (and ended up buying a new lamp...Target has clearly missed out on a way to increase sales. Get indecisive people in there and tell them they have to spend an hour deciding about Item A while they walk around the store. I bet I wouldn't be the only one that spent a good $50 more than intended by the time it was over!). When the hour was up, there I was heading to my car with a lamp, a new duffle bag (that I actually bought for my sister), some new moisturizer, a planner, a couple Luna Bars (I'm hooked on those bad boys!) and...a Kindle. I spent the rest of the afternoon browsing around on Amazon, trying to decide which book to buy (I decided to limit myself to a book or so at a time...and for now, I'm not allowed to take the Kindle to bed...and yes, I realize how dirty that just sounded!). I ended up spending about $15 and ended up with two books (that were both under $3 each ... which is why I bought them) as well as the complete works of Shakespeare, the complete works of Jane Austen, and a collection of Mark Twain books (including Huck Finn, which I get to teach this year).

Yesterday was my first day using the new Kindle at the gym. I felt a little like a techno-nerd as I strapped on my iPod and grabbed my Kindle and headed for the elliptical. I will admit that reading slows my pace just a touch, but the 45 minutes flew by ... so much so that I think it's about time to bump my time up to a full hour. I luckily picked a book that's relatively light and quick reading (Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan). It's a good companion to my workout.

So of course, the question is what does the Kindle do to my relationship with books? Well, so far, I've stuck to my "No Kindle in Bed" policy. I read Commencement during the day and am working my way through Chelsea Handler's My Horizontal Life (a score from the public library's spring book sale!). I still have a stack of physical books that I fully intend to read because otherwise, man, that is a lot of money out the window! I just RSVPed to attend the library's fall book sale in a couple months. And I'm going to try to stick to just downloading one book at a time for the Kindle to keep myself in check. I definitely felt a sense of this being a life altering moment when I opened the Kindle and held it in my hands for the first time, but my hope is that the Kindle can peacefully co-exist with the books in my life and that the three (or three thousand of us -- if I count each book I own individually) can live happily ever after.


NICKI said...

Oh my gosh, I can't believe you got a Kindle! My sis, bro, and mom all got Nooks and took them to the beach. I was mocking them until my magazine kept blowing in the wind and I didn't want to get my book out for fear of getting it wet...

Mel said...

I know! I felt so guilty buying it, but it's really handy at the gym ... or in "waiting" situations. I went and got my hair conditioned and had to sit under the dryer for 15 minutes and that Kindle totally made the wait easier!