Tuesday, January 26, 2010

treasure island in wonderland

It appears that I'm about to read Treasure Island for the first time because it's offered free for downloading onto my Kindle. At the very least, there is probably some irony in this. Somewhere.

Am I finally embarking on the reading of certain literary classics I've postponed or ignored up until now, books I could easily have accessed via my local library, merely for the novelty of having them on an electronic reading device? It's true that at least part of the motivation is to see how much quality reading material I can gather together electronically with lowest possible cash outlay.

Last night I almost downloaded Flatland, which I like to re-read every few years. But it occurred to me that this classic work might not retain its illustrations in a Kindle version, so I decided to wait and find out how that works, even though the download cost is only a couple of dollars. I'm not sure what happened to my paper copy acquired years ago, but if it turns out the Kindle offering of Abbott's book has all the original drawings-- essential to that little masterpiece on space and geometry-- it makes sense to have it in my Kindle library. Why Amazon doesn't seem to have a cyber-version of that Victorian book's contemporary sequel Sphereland is, for now, a Kindle mystery.

One month into ownership, I'm beginning to see at least part of the role of Kindle in my life should be to serve as my Go-To library for those works I re-read regularly, year after year. This would include such children's books as A Wrinkle in Time, The Secret Garden, and others I write and chatter about endlessly. And the Sherlock Holmes stories, of course; I claimed that particular freebie almost the minute I took off my new Kindle's Christmas wrap.

To be clear, this sleek 21st Century paperless option does not replace print material. There is no replacing the physical Adventures of Sherlock Holmes standing dignified in my personal library of so-called real books. One favorite workhorse edition has an especially nice heft and feel to it, and its pages are accurate reproductions of how each page looked in its episodic publication in Strand magazine, complete with the original Sidney Paget illustrations.

For reasons both obvious and subtle, electronic devices do not replace books. But when I reach late at night for the reading equivalent of comfort food, the Kindle option is waiting there for me: the slim device rests comfortably in one hand while I click effortlessly from one page of the Study in Scarlet to the next. Should I have the sudden urge to jump ship and read a few pages of Moby Dick (or the latest Stephanie Plum adventure) I don't have to get out of my warm bed... in fact, I barely have to move. And when I leave the house even for the smallest of errands, I can always have my own personal library with me, instead of stuffing five books into my purse, or doing without. Should I have the sudden inspiration to read a title someone is effusing about, it can be on my device and ready to read in less than a minute.

Hardly a day goes by where I don't wonder what our ancestors would have made of such Wonderland marvels.

* * *
It occurs to me that readers might think I am being somehow compensated for talking about this device, but this is absolutely not the case. /bg

No comments: