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My new Kobo reader.

My favourite gift this Christmas was a Kobo reader from my sister, Sharon. Like any avid reader, I have looked at them for some time now, but as a true lover and collector of books, I had put off buying one. But now, one had come into my house and so I was able to see for myself just what I thought of it, and of the experience of reading a book in an entirely new way.

I had been reading a discarded library copy of Hitch – 22, and not really enjoying the experience of reading an old and battered copy. So I thought this would be a good place to start. The process of buying the book on line on my computer, and then syncing with my reader was effortless, and before you knew it, I was reading a worthwhile book on my Kobo.

It surprises me to say that I actually loved the experience. The display is very even and easy on the eyes. I like tapping the screen to turn the page. And I absolutely love the reading stats it gives you, such as % of the book read and average length of reading sessions. I finished Hitch – 22 much faster, I believe, than I would have had I kept on in the book. I then downloaded a few others, including Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand (recommended by my friend Joyce Doolittle) as well as a number of free, public domain books including The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Three Short Works by Gustave Flaubert and The Mystery of a Turkish Bath by E.M. Gollan — a quirky little number, to put it mildly.

And so it came to pass, the other evening I was extolling the virtues of my new toy to some friends, when I was reminded of an image I posted on Facebook not so long ago. This one:

And so I was asked if, in fact, I am no longer keeping it real, motherfucker.What could I say? I had been caught red-handed, guilty as charged. Busted.

I don’t like hypocrisy, especially when I am guilty of it myself. But I have to admit that having had the Kobo for a few weeks now, I am of two minds about the whole reader vs. books question.

As I say, I love books. My most treasured acquisition of 2011 was a first edition of Michel de Montaigne’s Essays, edited and illustrated by Salvador Dali (Doubleday & Co., 1947). It’s such a great find! I paid too much for it, probably, although only a fraction of what it’s actually worth. My knees were shaking (more or less) when I was going through the negotiations for it at Fair’s Faie Book store on 17th Avenue.

It occurs to me as I write this that most of you will never have the opportunity to see these images, so here are three of them pretty much at random to give you a feel for the quality and beauty of this book, and the artistry of Dali’s illustrations:

Obviously, nothing electronic can compete with a beautiful book.

Not only do I love books, I love bookstores, especially independent ones owned and operated by my friends and neighbours. My current favourite is shelf Life books on 4th St. SW in Calgary. I’ve read there a few times now and have attended the readings of other authors. It’s quickly become a vital place for Calgary’s writing community. Whereas electronic gadgetry has all but destroyed our sense of community. places like Shelf Life, and others such as Pages in Kensington, help to foster it.

I’ve done my best over the years to help such establishments keep their doors open.

Some books invite a certain amount of underlining and scribbling in the margins. One such book for me was Stephen Greenblatt’s Will in the World, one of my best reads from last year. I saw on the Kobo website that he has a new book, The Swerve, and thought about ordering it, but decided I should wait and buy the actual book as I know there will be lots of underlining to do, and many marginal notes to make.Unfortunately, it’s still only available in hardcovers so I will have to wait a little. Well, I’ve got lots to keep me going in the meanwhile.

Obviously, the Kobo is not going to replace real books for me. And yet. there’s something about it that’s really quite lovely. I like the fact that it doesn’t tell me if I have a new email and that it doesn’t allow me to connect to Facebook. I love it’s portability. I can hardly wait till I travel again so I can load a bunch of books on it. (Knowing only too well that I will acquire far too many real books on my travels. My first stop in a new city is always its leading independent book store. Followed by a local coffee shop. Followed, in turn, by a decent bar . . . )

I guess I come out on this question sitting firmly on the fence. It’s the best of both worlds, when you think about it. Maybe the most important thing about it is that it’s another excuse to keep on reading, which is one of my resolutions for 2012:

Read more. Read better. Be smarter.

Thanks for reading!


Post Script: I went into Shelf Life Books today and told them I had mentioned them in this blog and added them as an external link. While there. we talked about The Swerve, what a great book it promises to be, and when would it be available in paperback?  They had it in hardcovers, and then made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, so I am in possession of a beautiful copy of Stephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve: How the World Became Modern.

I guess I won’t be looking at my Kobo for a little while.

Holding this copy of The Swerve in my hands, I have to say there’s nothing in the world I find more beautiful than a good book!

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