Me and the e
December 30, 2010
Why must the discussion always pit e-books against the printed product? Why can’t we have it both/and? I do love the humble, dog-eared physicality of actual books, if not the papercuts and the rank, powdery discharge odor emanating from old paperbacks, and I doubt I will ever not be tripping over teetering piles of them in my house, but if technology is going to save this flagging industry, I thought maybe I should get on board with an e-reader.
So I got a Nook for Xmas—not the color one, though they’re practically iPads for half the price if the reviews are to be believed. No, I wanted the electronic ink that mimics the printed page and doesn’t cause eyestrain; I spend enough time reading from monitors.
You know what, reader? It’s going pretty good. I tore through Emma Donoghue’s intense and heartbreaking Room in about a day an a half, and it was a satisfactorily bookish experience. Enhanced, even—I love swiping my finger across the little touchscreen at the bottom to turn pages, and the e-version is about half the price of the hardcover, a boon when you’re after a new release; overall the pricing is uneven but generally less attractive when compared to paperbacks or used books.
Here’s an unexpected, though temporary, benefit: so far my kids haven’t really caught on that I’m reading, so they go about their business and don’t suddenly require my full attention as they do when I have a book open or the paper spread out.
The only problem I foresee is the sad fact that my electronic devices are prone to come to bad ends. (Let’s have a moment of silence for the iPod that fell in the toilet and the cell phone that endured a hot-water rinse cycle.) But I won’t take my Nook in the bathtub! I won’t rest it carelessly against my triple espresso! My children are decidedly unenthralled with the dull gray screen, so I don’t think they’ll manhandle it. With a durable cover and a little care, I’m confident my Nook will last until I misplace it.
The Nook came loaded with some free classics, including Dracula, which I’m about halfway through. It’s so much better than I remembered! I think I always tended to bog down around Renfield, missing out on that marvelous Van Helsing, equal parts canny, kooky, and brave; you want a friend like that in your corner, whose formidable intelligence is balanced nicely by his occasionally fractured English. Everyone but the vampires and possibly the servants is so noble and steadfast, always clasping hands warmly and swearing fealty in the face of adversity.
But the best thing about the original Dracula? He is so not sexy. He may go for a foxy lady like Lucy Westenra, but the only way he gets her is via the supernatural equivalent of roofies; she is decidedly unconscious each time he preys on her. He’s got a unibrow over red eyes, a “lofty domed forehead,” and a thick handlebar mustache that youthens from white to iron gray once he’s moved to England and gorging himself regularly. It’s not much of an endorsement of blood-drinking, or even immortality, but it’s a ripping good yarn, one I may not have revisited but for my e-reader.
Reading them in succession, I can’t help but contrast the pure, iconic badassery of Dracula with the (I believe intentionally) banal Old Nick of Room. In the latter, I’m so glad the psychopath isn’t the star for once.