Hump Day: E-readers: perfect gift for tree-hugging gadget-lovers

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

My maternal grandfather, Michael Pineau, would have been 120 years old on September 29. A former teacher, I know he would have been fascinated by all the electronic gadgets out today.

I remember sitting in the kitchen with him as he played with this new-fangled thing called a calculator in the mid-1970s. I believe I got it for Christmas. Always a lover of technology, I couldn’t put it down. Calculators are a dime a dozen these days, but they weren’t so common back then. He would invent a math problem, enter it in the calculator and then challenge me to come up with the same answer using a pencil and paper. I was usually right, since math was one of my stronger subjects.

He would have also been fascinated by the Confederation Bridge. Born and raised on Prince Edward Island, even the modern ferries of the 1970s likely seemed high tech to him. Building a bridge across the Northumberland Strait, though? He would have loved to see that. It was just too big to even imagine in his world back then.

I always love seeing people embracing technology. That’s why I was happy to hear my mother agree to try out an e-reader. This will be her Christmas present this year. (I’m not spoiling a surprise. She knows she’s getting it.)

Like my grandfather, she’s a voracious reader and will pretty much read anything. The problem with the love of reading, though, is what to do with all those books. Sure, you can give them away, donate them to the library or to yard sales or charity drives, but most of the time – at least in my case – they just pile up. My bed table has two stacks of books balanced precariously. One mistake and they will come tumbling down.

Yup! This is my nightstand with upwards of 50 books stacked up.
Yup! This is my nightstand with upwards of 50 books stacked up.

Lest you think I’m exaggerating, I will go count them now. Hold on a minute. Tick tock. Tick tock. There! I counted them and there are 39 books in one stack and 11 in another, interspersed with magazines, too. The bigger stack is leaning against the wall in order to stabilize it. The smaller stack is the one closest to me and contains the books I’m currently leafing through. And then there are the books on my dresser, too.

My house is full of books, mostly unread. That’s why I’m going the e-reader route, too. They’re cheaper, first of all, and I don’t have to drive to buy them or have them shipped to my home. While I love the feel of a book in my hand, this switch will end up saving me a ton of space.

My grandfather had shelves full of books. He didn’t care what they were about. He’d pretty much read anything. My mother followed in his footsteps. As long as they’re romances or mysteries, she’s willing to give anything a try. I’m much fussier and lose my patience with novels or other books pretty quickly. I’m so used now to reading short and snappy articles online that I lose interest fast.

With that said, there are many books that I’ve read from start to finish that I’ve enjoyed immensely. And despite the fact that I’ve slowed down my book buying considerably, the piles keep growing little by little. Like the kitchen gadgets I buy, each book is going to dramatically change my life. The skies will open, choirs will descend from heaven and the hand of God will come down to pat me gently on the head with wordless approval and eternal love, all because I bought that spiral slicer that makes noodles out of a zucchini or because of that book I bought on time management that I never got around to reading. (Oh the irony!)

The trees can breathe easier today. There are two more readers moving to e-reader technology and giving the trees a chance to live for another purpose such as creating oxygen, being used to build a home or simply standing there to be admired while housing a nest of singing robins or happy squirrels. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

My two ever-growing combined stacks of 50 books next to my bed and the large number of books on shelves and in piles around the house will eventually dwindle down to a few keepsakes. I’ll gain room and there’ll be fewer things gathering dust.

When I take delivery of my mother’s e-reader, I’ll load it with a number of free and low-priced books for her, including a few newer titles. Once she gets used to it, she’ll likely never want to go back to searching stores for used books. I’ll expect a few troubleshooting telephone calls if she gets stuck, though.

I currently use an application on my table as an e-reader, but it’s a bit big to read in bed. So I’ll probably end up buying the same e-reader that I’m buying for my mother and use it solely for that; reading. It’s smaller and more manageable in bed and it’s built exactly for that purpose, with proper screen resolution to reduce eye strain, etc., because the only thing you really do with it is read.

I usually buy myself a Christmas present each year, so it looks like I have this year’s gift picked out a few months in advance. Hey, it doesn’t take much to twist my rubber arm to buy a new gadget since, you know, it will change my life and the hand of God will come down from heaven, etc. If you don’t love buying new technology, then you don’t want God to come visit and pat you on the head, do you? Heathen!

Admittedly, I’m late to moving to e-books from printed books, but the extra room in the house, saved trees and saved money (e-books are cheaper) will all be beneficial in the long term. And I get a new gadget! Time get ready for that heavenly head pat!

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