If you were to walk into my apartment, you would find three industrial sized shelves filled with books that we were certain would be ample space for a growing library, but were filled to the brim by the time we were done unpacking. My piles of books have grown to the coffee table, living room floor, and of course my nightstand. I’m old fashioned in that not only do I love the smell of paper books, old and new, I also think that stacks of beloved books are one of the best ways to decorate a home. My old studio apartment didn’t have room for shelves, so they were stacked into piles all around the periphery and somehow that worked, too.
So you’d understand how strange it was as I got more involved in education conversations about technology in the classroom and the tug I began to feel that I needed to (gah!) give the whole e-reading thing a shot. I knew I’d be traveling for most of August, ten days of which internationally. The last time I traveled for more than a week my books took up more space in my carry-on than my clothes, so I decided that summer travel would be the best time to start AND be excited about e-books. (My chiropractor is also excited because he would shake his head every time he saw me reading a crazy heavy book that I’d lugged all over the city.) I bought a kindle. I downloaded the kindle app on my iphone. I also got an ipad mini somewhere in the mix. Off I went. Here’s what I learned:
- It was difficult to get used to the buttons on the kindle. I kept thinking the one on the right should be forward and on the left should be backward. That is not the case, which took me the length of my entire first book to master. I’m getting old.
- The kind of book I’m reading seems to matter. While in a more “literary” book, I am much more apt to want to go back and reread certain parts or backtrack a bit to draw connections, etc. While reading Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, I repeatedly wanted to go back to earlier parts due to the structure and nature of the story, but it was really cumbersome so I mostly gave up. (Maybe this will help my memory? Rewire some parts of my brain as I try to hold onto more details?) However, this wasn’t an issue at all while reading Camilla Lackburg’s thriller The Stonecutter.
- Taking notes is now both easier and harder. By nature I don’t like clutter, so I’ve been happy to embrace the “notebook” app on my iphone for shopping lists and using pinterest instead of pulling out sheets from magazines. It was hard for me to not be able to actually underline. I’m working on digital underlining and note taking. I think I’ll get there. My kindle isn’t a touch screen, so that was another interesting aspect of the kind of technology I’ve grown accustomed to using.
- While traveling, my carry on bag and suitcase were so much lighter. I kind of didn’t know what to do with myself at the airport. However, I needed a backup to occupy my mind until all electronic devices were cleared! My husband made fun of me that I couldn’t just sit–but I’m sure there are other crazies who don’t want to lose a half an hour of solid reading time! Luckily I had my most recent New York Magazine in my purse as well. Maybe one day I’ll be able to just sit and think on a plane. Or the subway. Or in line.
- I love the ipad app for one of my favorite cookbooks: Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. LOVE. Also, I am into the magazine apps for ones I subscribe to like Bon Appetit and New York Magazine. That was a surprise.
- E-reading gave me a lot of insight into my job: I was aware of my own “moves” as a reader and I began to see how some traditional teaching methods–like annotating and using post its–might not be applicable to all of my students anymore. Trying out note taking strategies on my devices was definitely helpful as my students become increasingly more digital and less analog. I’m dreaming about loading up kindles with series books for students and having them available for checkout. I found out that the Brooklyn Public library has a huge selection of ebooks of all kinds using the Overdrive app for devices. These are game changing developments for classrooms like mine where I’m dying to get more books in front of my students. (Next up: getting out of the dark ages in NYC schools and starting a “Bring Your Own Device” policy!) The implications of knowing your “stats” automatically without an annoying (thought educationally helpful) reading log seems genius!
- It’s really easy to get a book, which is good and bad. One of my friends said that she reads so much more because it’s so easy to get books to read from home–and studies back up that notion: convenience makes more avid readers. One of my favorite things to do is to browse in a bookstore and that is generally how my (digital-ha) list of books to read grows. As convenient as e-readers are, I passionately support independent booksellers and this is a palpable tension because I try to go out of my way to purchase books from them and only go to the megastores if I’m in a pink or can’t find what I’m looking for. But, to close this post, I’ll share my recent find on my e-reading journey:
This posting from Galleycat helped me find ways I can still support independent stores and enjoy the convenience of not having a 15 pound purse. I’ll let you peruse at your leisure, but the bottom line is that there are a lot of independent stores now selling ebooks on their websites. Not all, but I can still support some of my local favorites like Greenlight Bookstore.
I’ll be sure to share more on my e-reading experience, but I’m most enjoying it due to my lightened load and the way it’s making me think about my students’ experiences and engagements. I still love curling up with an actual book and I still have science fiction nightmares a la the paperless world Super Sad True Love Story, and percentages will never be as satisfying as holding 3/4 of a book in my left hand, but I’m going to keep at it for now.