Friday, December 17, 2010

Shaking Hands with the Future

Well, I've done it. I've joined the digital revolution. Sort of. I still shudder at the thought of actually reading a book on an electronic device, but I've made my own novel A Merger of Equals available on Kindle. Now, I'm fervently hoping that all the people who assured me this was a good idea, a necessary step, absolutely essential, will get busy proving they were right. Let the e-buying begin.

Little in life makes me happier than cuddling up with a book. It's a sensory pleasure as well as an intellectual one. The heft of a book in my hands gladdens and reassures me. The font and spacing of the text interest me (or, in the occasional case, make me wonder what lunatic thought extreme ugliness or illegibility was the way to go). Equally delicious are the choices of cover art and colors, of matte or shiny finish for the jacket or cover paper, the formatting of the front matter - copyright page, acknowledgments, dedication - and the tantalizing brevity of the About the Author paragraph, which is inevitably pristine and enigmatic in what it says and, even more, in what it doesn't.

And then the story unfolds, a sinuous mental flow of ideas, characters and events evoked by a black-ink parade of words marching across and down each porous cream-colored page. The way letters look etched into paper. That experience of flipping a page because you can't wait to see what the next words will be, then going back because the words at the bottom of the previous page are calling irresistibly. The story's the thing, to be sure, but, for me at least, the delivery package is so intrinsic a part of the enjoyment, so integral to the full experience.

I've sampled a friend's Kindle. (The very friend, in fact, who previewed my book to make sure the conversion process hadn't gone horribly awry - a million thanks to you, Jeanine!) It's a super-cool device, and a superb alternative to hauling a suitcase full of books when you travel. Maybe it even offers tactile and visual pleasures comparable to those of paper-and-ink books. But I seriously doubt I'll ever find out.

The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow