Will Call: Turning a page | PostIndependent.com

Will Call: Turning a page

After years of snobbery, I’ve decided to drop my disdain for ebooks.

That’s not to say I’m going to go out and buy a Kindle, but I recognize that my predilection for audiobooks leaves me without a leg to stand on.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.Last week, while attending an event in my elementary school library– now the Calaway Room at the Third Street Center– I happened to run into one of my library teachers from back then. In the course of covering a story a few days later, I had a chance to talk with the other for the first time in years.

This naturally got me thinking about my early days as a shy but talkative youngster who read at recess and spent my summers in and out of Gordon Cooper Library.

I had learned to read in Kindergarten thanks to Mark Ross, who thought it might give my mother a break from my incessant questions. It sort of worked, insofar as I began to devour juvenile nonfiction, particularly with respect to dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. There remain many more questions than answers in the world, however, which may be why I became a reporter.

In any case, I continued to read for information more than pleasure until second grade, when I encountered “The Chronicles of Narnia” and turned down the path of fiction.

To me, the opportunity to live many lives through literature and cinema is the greatest gift of civilization. It allows us to escape the problems of our lives and also gain the perspective to confront them.

I had no compunctions about turning to the burgeoning internet for facts and figures. In fact, the ability to click or search my way from question to question suits my interrogative style far more than an author’s linear journey ever could– if only peer reviewed journals had hyperlinks like Wikipedia.

For a long time, though, I couldn’t imagine separating the act of reading from the tactile experience of a novel. Choosing a book from rows of tall shelves was an irrevocable part of the ritual of reading, enhancing the experience in the same way that a trip to the theater enhances a movie.

At some point, though, we run low on time– an experience that is often coincident with an increase in tedious tasks. I was introduced to audiobooks in the form of “The Golden Compass,”– a rather ironic juxtaposition with Narnia and a gift from my godmother when I was too sick to read otherwise.

At the time, I was in the habit of reading the thickest tomes I could find– both to postpone the bittersweet heartbreak of finishing one and having to start another, and probably also to show off.

I soon found that audiobooks allowed me to slate my fiction addiction even while doing the dishes or cleaning my room, making things more enjoyable in the process.

By the time I got to college, my audible.com account was my primary literary outlet as required readings crowded things out. That’s also around the time that bookstores began closing– including Glenwood’s Through the Looking Glass and Carbondale’s Novel Tea Shop– and eink displays gave the Kindle and its successors a leg up.

Some of our readers have probably gathered that I am more averse to change than I have any right to be at the age of 25. To me, the most valuable item in my wallet is my retro green library card, and as nice as our fleet of new libraries are I still miss the old ones.

As such, it’s hard for me to admit that ebooks just aren’t that bad. As a friend of mine recently pointed out, text, unlike a painting, doesn’t have texture or sheen to get lost in the process of digitization. Words are words; it’s what they convey that counts.

Both formats have their advantages.

Physical books come with the romance of crinkling pages and a scholarly smell that transforms any space in which they are displayed. They don’t need batteries, and although they get flack for being made from trees that actually means they’re both renewable and a carbon sink.

Electronic books are cheaper, can be obtained almost instantly, and are immensely portable.

I don’t plan to give up my bookshelf anytime soon, but I can see the allure. In my book, a reader’s a reader, no matter the format.

Will Grandbois has been known to read the newspaper online, but still thinks the narrative structure lends itself to print. He can be reached at 384-9105 or will@postindependent.com, and is user 6460321 on Goodreads.

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