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E-Books: Spawn of the Devil or Gift of the Gods?

As an Indie author, I have many reasons to be grateful to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. After all, it was his vision that turned the staid publishing world on its head and provided opportunity for authors to go it alone. I realize there are two sides to that coin, but that isn’t the purpose of this piece. Today, my focus is on the e-book, most specifically, the Kindle.

Like most book-lovers, I discovered early on that book collections tend to multiply faster than the space allotted to them. When I lived on Long Island, the large loft above my living room was allocated as my library. I happily, and indiscriminately, filled it with tomes. This was the first, and last, time when space was not an issue. When we prepared to relocate to Colorado, I had to deal with the pain of dissecting my collection and discarding my old college text books and other volumes with little or no future value or potential use. This was the first time I was faced with the gut-wrenching reality that large book collections don’t travel well.

My pared down library found a place, albeit without a dedicated room of its own, in my Colorado home. Six years later in our larger Maryland home, my books could – and did – happily spread themselves out over a number of rooms, and closets, while still allowing me the illusion of a tidy home.

When we made the decision to downsize and move to Florida, I faced the daunting task of divesting myself of about 90% of everything I owned, included my book collection. Thankfully, by this time I had already owned my Kindle for a number of years and had, therefore, saved myself from even more serious literary winnowing.

While I do not take issue with the purists who believe that the touch, feel, and smell of a real book is part of the enjoyment of reading, I embrace the trade-off that e-books provide. As someone who loves to read herself to sleep at night, I am thrilled to be able to read in the dark without waking up hours later to the annoyance of a too bright room. Nor do I have to deal with my husband’s grumpy requests to douse the light. My Kindle knows when I’ve fallen asleep. It quietly shuts itself off and rests gently on my chest until I awaken just enough to slide it on to my night table.

In the context of immediate hedonistic gratification, I can finish reading a book at midnight, and then, within mere seconds (and without leaving my bed), purchase the next in the series and continue reading. When my eyes are tired, I can increase the print size and change the contrast of the backlit page. And, of course, the pièce de résistance of e-books: the dictionary function! I am such a fan of this function that I find myself somewhat embarrassingly (and disappointingly) reaching out to touch the page of a ‘real’ book to ascertain the meaning or nuance of a word.

As much as I love my Kindle for all the above stated reasons, I haven’t given up totally on ‘real’ books. I discovered that books fit pretty well in under the bed storage containers. I also rediscovered my local library where tons of ‘real’ books still find a home.

For me, though, the answer to the title question is easy: e-books are definitely a welcome gift from the technology gods.

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