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Monday, 04 April 2011

The Electrocution of the Bookworm

By Marcia Mayo who blogs at Well Aged With Some Marbling

The bookworm has been electrocuted, but don't be sad. There's a happy ending.

At my request, my brother gave me a Kindle for Christmas and I have to say I like it better than I thought I would. I was intrigued with the notion of an electric book but withheld judgment, waiting to see if it would do the reading trick for me, and so far, it has.

My only problem centers on heft. The Kindle is pretty light weight, which is good. The heft problem has to do with the fact that I apparently gauge the length of a book by its weight and girth, not to mention the number of pages.

My Kindle doesn’t give me page numbers and it weighs the same, whether I’m reading War and Peace or a memoir by someone who hasn’t yet lived very long.

It does give me the percentage of what I’ve read. For example, my Kindle will have something like 38% written at the bottom of the screen. But percentage of what? Thirty-eight percent of 200 pages or 1000? So, what happens is I’ll be barreling along, happy as that legendary worm eating its way through a real paper and ink book, when all of a sudden, I’m at the end.

Okay, the climax was there and the ending was satisfactory and the little percentage sign did say 98, but I’m still nonplussed and undone, and that’s because I couldn’t count the number of pages I had left as I was moving along.

Who would have thought, when I was a little girl, that I would someday read an electric book? I remember hearing about how, one day, we would be able to see the people we talk to on the phone. This has obviously already happened with Skype and that latest iPhoney thing.

I also remember laughing about the notion of smellivision, technology which would enable us to actually smell what Mrs. Cleaver and Aunt Bee were baking in their cozy kitchens.

But an electric book! Who could have envisioned such a thing and why would anyone want one?

I've been a reader almost as far back as I can remember. I recall sitting in the back seat of my parents' car, book in lap, knowing I could read. I like to think I was somewhere around four, but it may have been later.

I do remember it was after second grade when I finished one of my brother's Hardy Boys books. It was too hard for me to fully enjoy, but I still took great pride in my feat.

And then there was the great joy I had as a child, which emanated from my being able to eat the occasional sandwich meal, not with my family around the dining table, but while lying in my bed with a book as my dinner companion.

Other reading memories as a child include:

365 Bedtime Stories. I read this book for years, even when I was too old for it. My kids have tried to find it to give me as a gift, but, so far, no luck.

The Secret Garden.

• Those biographies of famous people with the silhouettes on the on the front cover. I only read the girl ones: Martha Washington, Clara Barton, Juliette Low.

• Trixie Belden. I loved Trixie and Honey and the Gang and so wanted something exciting like that to happen in my life.

The Diary of Anne Frank. Whatever goodness I have in me was bolstered by reading this book at a relatively young age.

Lost Horizon. I don't remember how old I was when I read this one but I knew it was one of my mother's favorite books and it became one of mine too.

Born Free. My mother actually read this book to me when I was about ten and we spent the summer at my grandparents' house in Phoenix.

In fact, many of my childhood memories have to do with reading, coming back from the old Savannah Public Library on Bull Street with a load of books, picking through them, deciding which one I would read first.

I was a child who lived a dual reality, one of my own making and the other based on whatever book I was reading. I could say the same about my adult life, a life made richer by the books I've read.

And so, I think I'll juice up the Kindle and browse my digital stacks to figure out what I'll read next. It's nice not to have to make my way to the bookstore or the public library.

But wait, I just found my mother's copy of Lost Horizon all dusty and forlorn on a bookshelf. I think I'll pick it up, and read it again. It feels good in my hands; not too light, not too heavy and it has just a right number of pages.

Note: Since writing this a couple of months ago, my son informed me that Kindle can now tell me what page I’m on. So far, I haven’t been able to figure that part out.

In addition, I re-read Lost Horizon and wonder if I really ever did read it as a child. I can’t imagine sticking with it at an early age as I had a difficult time reading it now.

Lastly, a neighbor boy (who is now 60) read my blog posting about not being able to locate my bedtime stories book and he found it for me. I now have it sitting on my coffee table and it is just as good as it was fifty-five years ago.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I love books; old books and new books, it doesn't matter. I have said I didn't want a kindle, but I am rethinking that.

Trixie Belden! I'd been trying to remember the name of that dungaree-clad cutie for days!

Like you, I lived dual lives--and what a lot of lives there were on one side of that duality! There were some stories I wanted to live so much that I read them over and over. Little Women and the Alcott companions: I had to stop counting at fifteen reads; it was embarrassing.

As it happens, I was thinking of buying a Kindle today. Maybe I'll just buy a book.

You've made me all nostalgic about the books from my childhood and the dual life it created. I'm on a quest to find some Beany malone books now.

I love my Kindle,too, Marcia, and at first had the very same complaints about not knowing how far through the book I was.

You can laugh, but at first I would go to the library and take out the book I was reading on my Kindle just to keep track of the pages. I couldn't read the library book because the print wasn't large enough for my tired old eyes but it was a guide for me to refer to.

Then, I got used to being satisfied with knowing the percentage of the book I had read. Now, I am looking forward to the new system that will tell me what page I am on. That information will also help me go back to a certain page to reread what a particular character said or did.

My Kindle has allowed me to continue reading my beloved books because I can make the font as large as I want the print to be. Sometimes when I am tired I make the font so big the screen looks like an eye chart with that giant E at the top.

I know without it,I would have to be satisfied with just watching Television and I can only take so much of Snookie and The Situation, The Housewives of Orange
County, and spoiled brats turning up their noses at $5,000 wedding dresses at Kleinfelds.

Hurrah for Kindle!

365 Bedtime Stories! Does that bring back memories. Thanks for this.

No Kindle or Nook yet, but the time is coming.

It's only the newest Kindle that does pages. Like you - a few of you actually, I find the lack of pagination a problem and I've thought about trading up and giving my current Kindle (my second) to a deserving person. Not there yet. I love my Kindle for all the reasons mentioned. But on another note re nostalgia reading, does anyone besides me remember the Judy Bolton books. She was so much more interesting than Nancy Drew. About 15 years ago I had an exchange of letters with Margaret Sutton, the author and she said that the reason Nancy Drew prevailed was it was actually written by a stable of writers because the publishing company bought the rights and owned it lock stock and barrel. She didn't want to give Judy up. I can see where Judy got her gutsiness from.

I would add Gone with the Wind to the collection, I read that when I was 13, my daughter read it when she was 13 and so did my granddaughter. The first almighty tome and what a story!!!
I also lived "What Katy Did" series and the Enid Blyton books and an old romantic writer out of Ireland, long out of print, named "Annie Smithson".
Lovely piece, Marcia.
I remain unKindled.

Well, Marcia, I can comment on here, but still haven't figured out how to do so on your blog, so I'll include both. This morning, a grayer than gray day in NY State, you gave me laughs aplenty on your blog and nostalgia on here. What more can one ask. I know my kindle days are coming--but I"m resisting. Can't really see small print when my eyes are tired at night, and have tried all kinds of moderately successful racks to hold my books. Thanks for the push, and for the laughs about your trip.

Love fellow readers. I am reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy for the third time. I too am unKindled, but I saw a lot of them on the planes this weekend.The day may be coming.

I love reading also but if you haven't seen The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo original movies (not the American remakes) do so. The first had subtitles but with little dialogue it was easy and the last two offer the option of dubbing. The dubbing was not distracting at all, again because of the small amount of dialogue. The actors were spot on and I cannot picture them any other way so will not be watching the new ones.

I love to read as well but I haven't gone to the Kindle. I get some kind of egotistical self-satisfaction not only from holding a book but from seeing them lined up on the bookshelf as if to say...."Yeah, I read ALL these books!

It is good to know all this info about kindles and such, esp about the time even glasses don't help with reading comfortably..still seems another step toward the end of everything we knew..loved reading about what books were read way back when..I was a l4 year old sophomore, catholic hs, parents both readers all the time..putting away the laundry, I found a paperback book in my father's drawer, read it, I thought pretty quickly, put it back & about a week later was asked if I had been the one who took the book out of his drawer..Yes I replied as calmly as I could, he said, never, ever take things out of people's drawer without asking. I said, okay..the book was Peyton Place..I don't think I even told my sisters to this day, one is l6 months younger and the other ten years younger..never meant to keep a secret, just never thought about it since the quite dramatic event..Books are everything!

Okay - I give. I just put the kindle on my wish list. You've convinced me there are more pros than cons.

I love your title. My husband bought me a Kindle and I can relate to the continuing importance of books in your life. It seems like with Kindle, it's easy to always have something good to read. It is a little unsettling not knowing how many pages the book is, but I'm getting used to it and find the percentage helpful. It seems like I finish books on Kindle faster than I do print books. I also like the fact that I don't have to struggle with keeping pages of thick books open and can adjust the font size to suit my vision I don't have to have to bookmark where I am in the book. Sometimes, I read more than one book at a time, and Kindle takes me right back to where I left off in a book.

It's great being able to instantly order any e-books from Amazon and not have to buy print books which have become very expensive or having to borrow library books, many with pages
'unidentified' stains.

Thank you for your discussion of the pros and cons of Kindle.

A month or so ago, Amazon emailed me about a free download for my Kindle that allows one to see page numbers--you don't have to buy a new Kindle. But I think the page numbers may be visible only on certain books. Perhaps, the newer ones.

Also, Kindle now has a feature where you can share a book (for 14 days). This is limited according to what the publisher allows.

I love my Kindle for two reasons. (1) It is so light, I can tuck it in my purse and not feel the weight. (2) I'm not filling up more boxes and closets with books and more books. No more hassles trying to find someone who wants them.

Here's a link concerning the download for page numbers on Kindle.


Thanks, Arlene. I received that same email but, of course, misplaced it.

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