I read the Kindle edition of Do You? (on my computer), a collection of poems and photos that touch our soul gently and sharply. The following is my favorite passage. (Is there anybody who considers herself a writer who has not had this experience?)
Unvoiced stress gnaws at my brain at night before dreams take hold,
grinding teeth and clenching jaw,
bottled emotions bubbling under the surface.
I have no choice but to listen to my inner voice,
It commands me
to record my thoughts and feelings.
I also felt the desire to carry the book around, not just view it on my desktop display. I might want to re-read these lines on a whim: on the road, in the office, at a coffee shop. For me, reading good passages is not about digesting information; it is about reminding myself what, why, and who I am, a simple collection of awareness which unfortunately needs periodical maintenance. We sometimes need to look back in order to move forward.
Does it mean that I am going to order a paper version? Well, probably I am going to get a real Kindle and download my favorite books into it, along with one hundred other books. Yes, I am selling out and I am fine with it. What matters is not the physical form—the sense of ownership and mobility is.
Steve Jobs once said “People want to own their music” when he was explaining why Apple considered iTunes as a retail, not rental, business. He was dead on, and the same idea goes for books. Both music and books allow us to have a transforming experience within the reach of our hands.
In other words, when it comes to reading, what matters is being able to carry the book around and have “an experience” when I feel like it. We do not care that much about the package. Come to think of it, it was never about the package no matter how we associate our love for books with their appearances.
E-books also allow us to pick the relevant part in a book easily. I frequently worry about what to do with books with one good chapter and nine irrelevant ones. For example, I have Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start, a collection of practical tips for starting businesses written almost five years ago, before the financial crisis. Why keep it? For reading the parts that are still relevant, and learning from his experience, such as this:
Bill Reichert, a managing director of Garage, likes to tell entrepreneurs that the odds of raising venture capital are equal to the odds of getting stuck by lightening while standing on the bottom of a swimming pool on a sunny day. He’s exaggerating. The odds aren’t that good.
I used to think of Kindle and other e-book readers as the brute force that destroys the good old relationship between books and us. How wrong was I. Though I haven’t owned an ebook reader yet, when I have one I am sure it will reinforce my connection/affection toward books, because the pleasure of book-reading—carrying a book around and reading it on a whim of passion—is exactly what the e-book readers delivers better than their paper counterparts.
P.S. Reading Do You? also freed me from thinking that poems were meant to be collections of undecipherable statements that defy logic and grammar and meaning. Here is another great poem, Before I was a Mom/Dad, that opened my eyes in a similar manner.
Before I was a Dad,
I never held a sleeping baby just because I didn’t want to put it down.
I never felt my heart break into a million pieces when I couldn’t stop the hurt.
I never knew something so small could affect my life so much.
I never knew that I could love someone so much.
I never knew I would love being a Dad.
…However, not having had a child yet, I must confess the only part I truly get for now is the following.
Before I was a Dad
I made and ate hot meals.
I had unstained clothing.
I had quiet conversations on the phone.