My Kindle Nook

categories: Cocktail Hour / Reading Under the Influence


Lifetime supply


A year ago I wrote here about my big push to organize and clean out my library, such as it was.  And is.  You can see the results above–the main bookcase is jammed, still, even with nearly 900 books carted off to various rescue shelters.  I posted this photo on Facebook a while back and it seemed to strike a chord.  On the right, I achieved a certain order.  Poetry, biography, psychology (those are Juliet’s, primarily), gardening.  On the left, chaos continues to reign: fiction.  Some of these books have been with me from high school–40 years, that is–a few from childhood (Aesop’s fables in a box with my mother’s lovely handwriting).  Large numbers are from college and the years after, which is odd, since those were peripatetic years and books incredibly cumbersome.  Larger numbers were lost, of course, or given away.   But never fear, I was a bibliomaniac, and collected books in great numbers, no matter I was broke.  Do you remember all the crazy used bookstores around Union Square? To the right of the photo frame is our ancient and ugly and very efficient woodstove.   In winter, one roosts and reads.  Behind the camera is yours truly, then another bookshelf: literary nonfiction.   And more shelves all over the house, most in my studio.  Behind the camera also is a set of double doors and our deck, and out there and down the stairs and across the lawn a hammock, which I’ve just hung for a fresh season of books and naps. I do enough on screens these days–i want to smell the paper.  And I want to throw the awful ones across the lawn.  And read my notes, the marks of a younger man.  In many I wrote the date of acquisition and place.  And nearly all of my stories and essays started in the back blank pages of the books in my life.

What do you think?  Books or e-books or both?




  1. Leticia writes:

    This is a lovely post… I’d say both, but that is almost besides the point – what I am happy about is to have stumbled across this lovely passage while meandering uselessly through the net.

  2. Jim Miller writes:

    Both. I struggle last year with this same decision and finally broke down and got a Kindle 3. And I love it. If you use an e-reader, you’ll probably want one with e-ink…not the fire or ipad…that is if you don’t want the distraction of email and apps. Also, they are back lit like a computer. e-ink readers do in fact feel like reading a book…sort of. I still have kept my paper books that mean something to me…or the ones I haven’t found in e-format. But I have been able to thin the herd a little on those books that I enjoy but don’t really need a hard copy for. that’s my two cents.

    • Bill writes:

      Your two cents is worth a lot. I get it. Or I think I get it. But I feel like the machinery really begs the question of what a book is. Content, is all you get on the machine. And all books get the same context: size, shape, smell, condition, all erased. Before every meeting of every writing class I teach I scour my shelves for just the right book or two or three to bring and show off. I pass it around, I talk about the production values, give author history, imagine the author getting her first copies in the mail, and only late in the discussion read from the pages, which is a visible and physical act. Also, I miss horseless carriages.

  3. Susan Pearsall writes:

    I”m a paper girl all the way. For me, reading is about diving into another world, flipping pages back and forth, if I suspect I’ve missed something, and NOT worrying about the battery levels or technical glitches. When I a finish a great paper book, I can’t wait to lend it to a friend, as long as he/she swears to return it. The only way I”d turn to e books is if I’m banished to a desert island without a library. Then, I’d probably love them!

    • Bill writes:

      But will the desert island have an outlet for your charger? My main argument is my mother’s handwriting in many of my books. And my own notes, from all the many ages of man up to this one. And all those author signatures, many of them friends.

  4. Richard Gilbert writes:

    I prefer physical books but have to say Both! E-readers have a place, though they are not as indispensable as the real thing . . . And they break! The book is a perfected technology.

    • Bill writes:

      I’ve broken quite a few books in my day, Richard. But even broken, they work. I admit, I haven’t tried an e-reader yet. I know I don’t like reading at length on my laptop, not the same, I’m told, not the same.

  5. Chelle G writes:

    Both. I too love the smell and feel of books! When I was a youngster and constantly sick, I read the dictionary for fun. Love, love, love books! But, my Nook Color has been a god send. I am a graduate student, which translates to lots of books to haul around. My Nook has saved my back. Also, I am an avid Idaho traveler. Sometimes we pick a place on the map, we’ve (hubby and I) never been and just go. That too translates into lots of books–travel books–and books don’t survive long in a hot vehicle. The glue on the spine melts, the pages get crumpled, and the covers get torn. So, I purchase a copy for the Nook and one to keep at home on the shelf. I am not as fond of holding my Nook as I am a traditional book, but I think there is room for both in my world.

    • Bill writes:

      Right, the smell of books! And/or mildew! When your e-reader starts to smell, you know you’re in trouble. Or maybe in the new smell-o-vision generation, I don’t know. How does a Nook do on the dashboard in the sun? I once had to pay for a melted VCR tape. 75 bucks or something. Back in the stone age. It was “She’s Gotta Have It,” the Spike Lee film, and the lady at the rental place (defunct now, of course) thought it was a porn. Oh, she didn’t like me. Are Nook Colors judgmental?