From the time when I first read Dr. Seuss as a child, I’ve always enjoyed the experience of books: acquiring them, reading them, telling others about them, and giving them away to others. Just last week I loaned out my long-ignored but recently-read copy of W.P, Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe. The printed and bound word has always been important to me.
But the world has also changed a lot in my lifetime. I can remember rotary phones, and record players, and home video games that weren’t too much more than blips on a screen. The world has shifted under my feet in many ways, and I suppose this had to happen with books, too.
Last Christmas I received an Amazon Kindle Fire as a gift. Since then the device, even though it’s technically mine, has been used by the others in my household. I stubbornly continued reading books, as I always have, until a couple of days ago. It was a moment that felt like something changed.
I was flying back from Florida to Chicago, and it’s about a two and-a-half hour flight. Not terribly long, but such that passing the time is important. John Grisham‘s Calico Joe had been loaded onto the Kindle Fire, and it had suggested several times that I should read it. I always have enjoyed Grisham’s work, and it was a book about baseball, so why not?
The experience of swiping across the screen to move onto the next page seemed strange, but I got used to it. And the story sucked me in, as Grisham’s books usually do, and dragged me along, page after page, until we landed as I was nearly finished (87% finished, to be exact). So in the air on the way back home, I felt as if I had bridged a centuries-old gap from the technology of the 15th century to the technology of the 21st century.
The next morning, I picked up the Kindle Fire again and finished off the story. And I must say that I enjoyed it a lot. But even more importantly, I felt as I did when I made my first cell phone, or received my first email. The world has now changed, and doing things exactly as I have before now seems neither practical nor desirable.
I probably will continue reading books in the traditional manner, because old habits die hard. But I can also see that the future of reading, like so many other things, has just changed, and possibly forever. Time and technology keep marching on, just as they always have.