The Convert

A few months ago Margie Boule, a widely read columnist for the Oregonian, the local newspaper in the town where I now find myself, says she would have “despised” someone who read with an e-book. Margie Boule is a reader, she loves books, and reports that she would have also called herself a “book murder, a destroyer of bookstores or something more colorful,” if she ever read an e-book.

But now in her column in the November 19th Oregonian she is reading “more books on a Kindle than on paper.” Do I sense a revolution in the works? Hitherto, she was comforted by her books, she “loves the feel of the pages, and the soft whoosh when one is turned. I love the smell of an old book. I love the crispness of the paper in a new book.” And yet…

She now reports a long list of advantages of the e-book. “The Kindle is light; it fits in my purse easily. If I come across a character I can’t remember, I can search the book and recall who the character is. If a friend recommends a book, I can buy it…and be reading the title page within a minute…And if I like the book, I can purchase another e-copy and have it sent to my daughter’s Kindle, as a gift.”

Moreover, a book from the Kindle store costs less than the hardback or even the paperback at the bookstores. And she claims there are many classic books at the Kindle store that are apparently free—Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Jack London, etc. That was news to me.

Booklover that she is, she also reports that she is still buying printed books, mostly biographies, cookbooks, decorating books, photography books. These are usually books with pictures or photos that she says, in agreement with other commentators, appear “gray and grainy on the Kindle.” She also misses the cartoons, and the charts and the book jackets, all of which are either absent or poorly reproduced on the Kindle. (I would also miss the ads that I understand are largely omitted from periodicals, like the New Yorker, as well as newspapers, like the New York Times.

And then there is the occasional social encounter with another person who wants to know if that’s a Kindle she is reading. She takes pleasure in demonstrating how it works and most assuredly the ensuing conversation too.

And yet…back to basics, Boule misses those times she used to spend browsing through small independent bookstores and terribly guilty at depriving them, at least those that have survived, of the income which must have been a rather sizeable sum, from the purchases she made in the good old days.

And in an e-mail exchange we had, Boule reported that she wasn’t sure if you could copy (highlight) passages and then download to them to your computer. That’s a deal breaker for me; I’ve heard some claim they could do this, even though it is cumbersome. But she did tell me something I didn’t realize--that she could e-mail long documents to a Kindle “which has its own e-mail address so that I can read them when I’m on the run.” I imagine this would really be useful to people on go but of little value to those who have trouble finding anywhere to go these days.

From a booklover who despised someone reading an e-book to one doing that very same thing is quite a turnaround. While I surely don’t feel anything close to despising an e-book reader, I haven’t felt especially compelled to give it a try. But Boule’s column today does give me pause. While I remain on the fence, I confess her column was extremely persuasive.

After reporting these details to my lunchtime companion, I was firmly cautioned not to buy the thing just yet on the grounds that Christmas is just around the corner and “I never have anything left to give you, since you always run off and buy things yourself.”