Nobody really wants to read a beat-up copy of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s T. Tembarum or Dorothy Canfield’s Rough-Hewn. Some of us go a little overboard when it comes to old books, but when dirt and, yes, feathers stick to the back of one of the illustrations in T. Tembarum (1913), and little brown splints of Dorothy Canfield’s Rough-Hewn (1922) are falling off the pages, the experience is not much like reading.
Here’s what happened when I started reading Rough-Hewn. The charming vignettes in this novel quickly entranced me. But the gritty yellowed pages made my hands powdery. I felt as though some really disgusting unidentified plague were infiltrating my epidermis. So I crept through the dark into the computer room and downloaded the book off the internet onto my Sony Reader as quietly as possible. Because once people are awake in this house there is no resting… You don’t want to deal at 3 a.m. with someone who has to get up at 6 a.m.
I have 66 books on my Sony Reader. I used it constantly when I first bought it a year ago. I do not buy books for the Sony Reader. I download books from Gutenberg and other sites. I have enjoyed the work of Booth Tarkington, Henry Handel Richardson, Rose Macaulay, E. M. Delafield, and Balzac on my Sony Reader. I prefer real books, which is why I forgot about my Sony Reader for a while. But though I could buy a paperback copy of Rough-Hewn, it would be silly to buy every reprint I want. The Sony Reader can provide some of them.
The problem with the Sony Reader is that one gets that clicking-around feeling one has on the internet. Do I really want to read Rough-Hewn, or would I rather read E. H. Young’s The Miss Mallets? There are so many books to choose from at Gutenberg. I can download all of them without using a credit card.
Now one thing I can say about the old Sony is that it’s not wireless. Thank God! I have to hook it up to the computer to download books. I’m not communicating with Amazon every minute of the day. I sometimes feel online that I might as well be writing notes to my lover: “Dear Amazon, I can’t wait to read Lan Samantha Chan’s new book and, yes, how did you know I wanted …One-click! One-click!”