the contextual life

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On The Shelf: e-Readers, Borges, and The New Weird

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In his essay this week, The E-Reader of Sand: The Kindle and the Inner Conflict Between Consumer and Booklover, Staff writer for The Millions Mark O’Connell spoke for all of us book nerds when he reflected on his own collection:

Like many people who love to read, I exist in a paradoxical state of having both far too many books and far too few. I probably don’t have many more than the average literature lover of my age, but I live in a smallish apartment, and it often feels hazardously, almost maniacally overcrowded with books. A precarious obelisk of partially read paperbacks rises from my bedside table, coated in a thin film of dust. My shelves are all two rows deep, stuffed with a Tetris-like emphasis on space-optimization, and pretty much every horizontal surface holds some or other type of reading material. I haven’t read nearly all of these books (many of them I haven’t even made a serious attempt to get started on) but that doesn’t stop me from accumulating more at a rate that neither my income nor my living space can reasonably be expected to sustain.

He goes on to discuss the Kindle he received as a gift and the conflict he feels as he incorporates e-books into his life. I too got an e-Reader as a gift only, unlike Mark, I rarely, if ever use it. Sometimes I’ll download copyright free books, which means they don’t cost me anything but I can’t say I’ve ever gotten around to reading them. Instead I continue to fill my physical shelves, even as they overflow and threaten to make inviting anyone over to my place an incredibly embarrassing experience—unless of course the other person is a hoarder and in that case, they will feel right at home.

I’m not a Luddite. I love technology. I aspire to have robot-brain, something I loosely define as becoming part machine in order to maximize efficiency, but there’s something about reading on a screen that lacks appeal—at the moment.I would like to use this opportunity though, for all you ereading fanatics out there, current and potential, to point out that you can buy ebooks, given that you have a device other than the Kindle (in which you can only buy from Amazon—as far as I am aware), that you can buy ebooks from your local independent booksellers. Yes, it is true. Some of you probably already know this but for those who don’t, especially those who are thinking about buying an ereader, if your local book store has a deal with Google ebooks you can support your local bookseller even if you are going digital. Check out your local store’s website and see if they’ve signed up for the service. If not, buy from someone else’s local indie bookstore.

Do you have an eReader? How has it changed your reading habits? Where do you buy your ebooks?

On the shelf this week:

The Book of Sand and Shakespeare’s Memory by Jorge Luis Borges
O’Connell compares the e-Reader to the book in Borges story, The Book of Sand: a book that has no beginning and no end. I’ve been meaning to read Borges’ short surrealistic fiction for a while now and this one sounds like a good place to start.

The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci’s Arithmetic Revolution by Keith Devlin
I recently heard Keith on NPR’s Science Friday discussing The Man of Numbers and it’s sounds like exactly the kind of math book I would read. Fibonnaci, or Leonardo of Pisa, was born at the tale-end of the 1100s and is the man who brought us the numbers 0-9; in doing so he revolutionized the trading world of his day.

The New Weird edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
There’s a subgenre in science fiction called “New Weird,” a style of writing that evokes pulpy dime-store novels. Ann and Jeff are two of the most respected editors in the sci-fi fantasy world today and their collections reflect their talent for spotting quality stories. The New Weird brings you tales from Felix Gilman, China Mieville, Michael Morcock, Clive Barker, and others. Defintely a crowd-pleaser.

The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt
Continuing with my foray into steampunk, The Court of the Air is on my shelf. It received a thumbs up from science fiction author and reviewer Paul Di Filippo. It has all the basic elements: mystery, Victorian sensibilities, and clockwork gadgets—which is to say, I can’t wait.

What’s on your shelf?


Written by Gabrielle

August 18, 2011 at 6:01 am

2 Responses

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  1. Hi Gabrielle!

    I have often said that I have a complicated relationship with my nook. I, like you, am no technophobe.

    I do have a very large print library, and it is not likely that I will ever stop buying books to add to it. On the other hand, my nook (as I refuse to support Amazon) has been great for books that are a little on the “lighter” side. These are often titles that I am interested in reading, but have somehow determined that I don’t need to own them in print to have and to hold, ’till death do us part. It’s a way to fight against my tendency to not give up my books, even if I don’t plan on re-reading them. It’s a bit of a problem. Thus, I have a perennial space-on-my-shelves issue.

    I read books on my nook on a fairly regular basis though, and it really is great for travel. I suddenly have much more space in my carry-on bag than I did before. But man oh man, there really is nothing that can replace that tactile feeling of a book in my hands.

    ~ Reese

    Reese M.

    August 22, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    • sometimes i look at my bookshelves and get a little nauseous 🙂 that being said, i find the computer text boring. i bought the entire collection of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy on ebook but wound up asking my mom to ship me my mass market. i just couldn’t connect with it. i’m sure as the technology advances it will be more appealing but for now i like the physical book.


      August 23, 2011 at 1:26 pm

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