Reading for me is an amalgam of simultaneous contradictions. It is active and passive, relaxing and engaging, leisurely and rigorous, entertaining and educational. While my concept of what reading is hasn't changed with technology, I have found that technology understands my approach in a way standard books have not.
Take, for example, Anthony DeCurtis' lovingly assembled anthology of his friend and colleague Robert Palmer's writings, Blues and Chaos. My love of music and my desire to be immersed in it responds to the leisurely and entertainment characteristics of my reading personality. Palmer's seemingly endless knowledge of the subjects at hand and his precision with language is an incendiary device to my burning desire to learn and to be challenged. (For the sake of focus and clarity, I've chosen to review this book in two parts. Part one will examine the eBook experience. Part two will follow shortly, focusing more on the content of the book itself.)
None of that has changed with technology, but the passive and relaxing facets of my reading self have been changed by technology and for the better. With eReading devices like Sony's Pocket eReader, I now have a way to take 480 pages and 1.5 pounds of knowledge and passion and condense it down to a few ounces.
I love the look of books on a shelf, but the physics of reading have long been a frustration to me and hardcover books are the prettiest but also the worst. First, most hardcovers come with those glossy slipsleeves. Read for any length of time and that sleeve is going to slip, slide, fray, fade, and tear. So what do you end up doing? You wind up removing it and setting in front of you just so you can manipulate the damn book. With that out of the way, now all I have to do is find a comfortable reading position. Carrying a one pound object isn't all that difficult, even for a non-athlete like me. Holding it between my thumb and forefinger or holding it with both hands isn't all that difficult for a short period of time, but I don't like to read for short periods of time. When I commit to reading, I plan to be there awhile. Being there awhile with 480 pages and the inflexible structure of the modern book gets uncomfortable for me. I never let that stop me from reading, but eBook devices have made all of that frustration a moot point. I don't have to fight with books to read them anymore.
I don't know if my reasons for loving eReading are the same as anyone else's, but according to The Washington Post, I'm not alone and the trend is not going away.
Another joy of eReading is privacy when reading in public. In addition to all the things reading is for me, it is also a private, non-social activity. Check this out… just this morning I'm sitting in Starbucks reading my Palmer book and out of the blue some guy starts talking to me about my device. Now I didn't really want to be interrupted but I played along. He asked me questions about my reader and I answered them, politely and patiently (two traits rarely associated with me but I can muster them with the right amount of caffeine). After he departed I realized something. He asked me what I was reading on, but not what I was reading. With eBook readers, I no longer run the risk of being run down by some stranger telling me how they loved or hated what I'm reading. Whatever strange looks I illicit now will have nothing to do with their judgment of my reading material, returning instead to a time when those looks were reserved merely for my socially awkward and borderline unacceptable personality. Burying myself in an eBook adds one more dimension to my disguise.