(or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Erosion of My Moral High Ground)
In retrospect, I suppose I should have seen this day coming when Moon Man bought me a computer.
We’d been together for…heck, I dunno, a year and change?…and I was moving out of my beloved hometown into the Awful Subdivision of Awfulness in the Awful Town of Awfulness where he lived (and where we still live to this day. Thanks, inertia!). He’d suggested that I should perhaps consider getting a new computer, because mine was becoming obsolete, but as I’d pointed out to him numerous times my computer was perfectly serviceable, thankyouverymuch, and there was simply no need to go running out to buy a newer-faster-shinier simply because it was newer-faster-shinier. And sure, mine had one of those tremendous monitors that required buttressing the table it sat on; and yes, the computer was a hand-me-down from a Czech linguist who was moving back to Prague, so the default language on it was Czech which I could not technically read so error messages were a fun puzzle; but Moon Man had installed a handy IM program for me so we could chat, and I knew how to access that thar interweb thingie, and I could create documents and type things and as long as I remembered more or less where various commands were in the English version of the dropdowns, I could do something like formatting it. I could italicize, y’all, thanks to the magic of keyboard shortcuts. What more did I need?
So I showed up at his house slightly before moving day–y’know, to get a sense of which of his decorations would simply have to go–and discovered that all unbeknownst to me, he’d slipped off and bought me a shiny new computer. Well, new-to-me, anyway, and it was in English, and had a flat monitor. And it was zippy! So very, very zippy. I was sold, and thanked him effusively, and relegated my old computer to the garage on move-in day and I’m reasonably sure it’s down there still. Maybe someday I’ll make it into art.
The problem, of course, is that this set a dangerous precedent. Without meaning to, I’d managed to teach Moon Man that yes, I would resist technological advancement (or as I call it, “yet another dang way to try to separate people from their money by setting up manufactured status markers”), but if he kept at it, sooner or later I’d cave, and probably end up admitting begrudgingly that he was right.
So a few years later, when smartphones were becoming allllll the rage, we ran ’round the racetrack again. He was 100% in favor of getting us smartphones, because our contract was up for renewal so it was Free Replacement Phone o’clock, and for a small charge we could upgrade to smartphones and just look how fancy they are! I pointed out that a phone is for making and receiving calls, and that is all I would like my phone to do, though the ability to send text messages was certainly a bonus. He countered by pointing out that smartphones could play games; I stared meaningfully at the closet full of board games until he caught my drift. He noted that smartphones could receive email and access the internet, and I reminded him of the computer he’d bought me against my wishes, by the way, and he eventually sighed and got himself a smartphone and I just replaced my old phone with a newer version of the exact same model I’d had before.
And because we were traveling a lot at the time for his old job, we spent a lot of time in the car with an outdated GPS and a shiny new smartphone with Google Maps right on it, and I realized that ok, maybe they weren’t completely a ploy of Satan to destroy us all, but I certainly didn’t feel any obligation to spend hundreds of dollars on what was effectively a road atlas wedged into a telephone.
And then he found one of those limited-time-only, We’re About to Roll Out the Next Generation of This Product So Please Help Us Get Rid of Our Surplus Stock, sales…where the smartphones which we both now have were going for a penny. One penny. One one-hundredth of a dollar. Even I couldn’t argue with that. So I caved again, and we got the phones, and now mine follows me around the house more dutifully than our dang dogs, who are supposed to follow me from room to room. I love that I can communicate with people using whatever media they like best. I love that I can read (and disregard, but still) my email from anywhere with coverage.
God help me, I love Temple Run.
So a little while later, he started extolling the virtues of the Kindle his parents had gotten him for…his birthday? Christmas? one of those gift-giving occasions. But this time I was not-I-repeat-NOT going to be swayed. Books are made of paper. They have a cover. They are bulky and awkward and if you read as much as I do, you get weird hand cramps from holding them and you have to be careful with them around water and…
…you see where this is headed, don’t you.
I blame Joe Hill, frankly. I had started following him on The Twitters, and he kept talking about this new novella he was releasing–and how it was only going to be available as an e-book. And I had recently read his NOS4A2 and loved it, and I wanted to read his new book, and I hate reading long documents on my computer screen in my office, and…well, I guess it was inevitable. So I happened to be thinking about e-readers, and without even realizing what I was doing I let slip to Moon Man that I was thinking about e-readers…
…and then it was my birthday…
…and that’s how Antoinette, my sexy little Kindle with the spiffy purple case, came into my life (yeah, I name inanimate objects). She’s only slightly larger than my wallet, but already has hundreds and hundreds of pages of books loaded into her. I can read her at the grocery store while I’m waiting in line. I can read her in the car when traffic gets scary and I need to look away while Moon Man plays Death Race with the other drivers.
I can hold her in my right hand and read her, y’all. Pick up a book like you’re gonna read it. Notice how it’s probably automatically in your left hand, because you turn pages from right to left and it’s more convenient to hold it on your left side? When you’re reading an average of two to four hours a day, that hand gets tired. Especially when you read a lot of big thick books. But Antoinette? She’s perfectly happy in my right hand. Or lying flat on the table, which is just a joke if you’re reading a thick printed novel, unless you have a book bar or a clip or a cat who’s willing to nap at the top of the page and doesn’t mind being interrupted for a page turn every minute or so.
Now, before you panic, allow me to assure you that I am absolutely not even a little bit interested in considering the possibility of thinking about pondering the option of maybe under some rare circumstance getting rid of my paper books. BOOKS ARE MADE OF PAPER. If you ask someone to draw you a book, they don’t draw a thing that looks like an oversized smartphone, they draw a book. I love the feel of books, the smell of books, the texture of their paper, the option of having strong opinions about their fonts.
But I’m willing, because I am a strong and amazing human being, to admit that maybe–just maybe–Moon Man was right. Maybe I can also love e-readers.
‘Cause lord knows I do love Antoinette.