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Monday, July 11, 2011


I read a lot. Books are like food for my brain. I especially enjoy reading in bed before I fall asleep. There's something about curling up with a good book that comforts my soul. I love the feel of a book, the smell of a book - new ones, old ones, musty ones, crisp photographic ones. I love them all.

I love browsing through stacks of books at the secondhand shop - stumbling upon titles I never knew existed, shelling out 25 cents each & carting them all home. I love passing them on to friends once I've read them & talking about what we liked & didn't like about the story, the plot, the characters. I love everything about a book.

But a couple of years ago, I decided to change my lifestyle - to minimize my possessions so that I could move toward a vagabond life. I reluctantly got rid of three tall shelves of books, saving only a handful to take with me when I left the US.

My first stop was Vietnam, where I was naively surprised to find that reading material in English was a rare luxury. It wasn't long before I began to feel desperate. Friends & family started sending me care packages of books to help feed my need to read. I coveted a neat little e-reader stocked with thousands of titles at a single click.

When I moved to Shanghai, my reading horizons happily expanded. There are a several cheap sources for books in English here, including Shanghai Secondhand, expat cafes and the copy book carts that appear in the foreigner neighborhoods after the sun goes down. I had an endless supply of read-feed again.

Even so, I still thought from time to time about getting an e-reader because it fits well with my long-term goals of reducing my material possessions. Besides, books are heavy & difficult to lug around as I move from place to place. Having them all in a neat little digital package would be a load off. 

So when I got a Kindle as a birthday gift earlier this year, I was delighted & excited to start exploring the world of e-books. Since then - in just a few month's time - my reading life has completely & irreversibly transformed into an almost exclusively e-reading life.

Before the Kindle, I used to spend hours browsing the shelves in a bookstore. Now I browse Amazon, where I've created an ever-growing wish list. I used to buy five or six books every time I saw a copy book cart. Now I don't even stop to see what's on offer. I've gotten rid of almost all of my physical books & downloaded the e-books that replace them, plus hundreds - not kidding - hundreds more, cheap or free (one of the perks of living in China).

I never thought the change would be so quick, so complete. As I said, I love the feel & smell of books, turning the physical pages, perusing the spines on my shelf, the beauty of a well-rounded home library.

You don't get any of that with a Kindle, it's true. But what you get instead is infinitely better. I carry a full library in my pocket everywhere I go. When I hear of a book I'd like to read, I can download it instantly. If the book I decide to read on a long flight doesn't grab my interest, I can simply forget it & switch to the next title on my list. It's like the doors of Pergamum have been flung wide & I can take anything I want any time I want. It's a traveling reader's godsend.

(Full disclosure: I do not work for Amazon, nor do I sell Kindles. I *do* get a few pennies in commission if you click on one of the books in the little box in the left-hand sidebar. Over the past year, that commission has amassed to the lofty sum of 35 cents.)


keiki on board said...

This post made me laugh because I remember being in Asia and I would read the same issue of People magazine my parents sent me about 200 times! It was just so comforting to see the roman alphabet! Kindles weren't around when I was over there but I sure wish they had been. ;)

Nancy Lewis said...

Hi Keiki! It's good to know that there are people out there who empathize :)

Scott said...

I like your post Nancy! Like you I like a good solid book. Give me a good tome! :-) But I definitely am excited to get a reader. Just as soon as i finish my current crop of real pages....

Nancy Lewis said...

Scott, if you don't want to shell out the dough for an e-reader just yet, you can still try out e-reading to see if you like it. Kindle has free downloadable software for your PC, Mac, iPhone, etc., & will sync between devices. Also, remember that anything published before 1923 is in the public domain & therefore FREE! Dracula, anyone?