Reading a book on a shiny mac laptop makes you forget certain things. To wit, publication dates. I re-formatted the text to suit myself, from modern, un-aesthetic arial to a more reader-friendly book antiqua, fiddled with the text size, prettied up the title page, which had gotten somewhat lost in conversion.
Now, this is a book I’ve read half a dozen times. I can picture the front of my battered paperback copy at home. But since the book didn’t lead off with a date, there was nothing to direct my attention thirty years into the past. Well, not at first.
Then there was the message board at the airport, with paper messages on pins. How trusting of them. But then, I’ve been watching a lot of movies involving mistaken identity lately. And a page or two on, travellers checks. A bit archaic, but they may be used for more remote destinations. I’ve always used a debit card, myself, but a chacun son gout.
Of course, that was before she mentioned “countries behind the Iron Curtain”. Right about then is when it clicked into place. The book is as old as I am. Because of the continued relevance of the characters and themes, it had slipped my mind entirely.
Medium is an integral part of an artistic experience. Its absense slips along unnoticed until something happens to jar me back into questioning what, exactly, I’m holding in my hands. I’ve discovered that I have trouble pacing myself when reading a book, since I can’t hold myself to the old standard of pages–Ten more pages, and then I’m going to sleep. Well, twelve. Percentage isn’t doing it for me, especially in an anthology, where a whole chapter hardly rates a percentage point. Time never worked with books, so its success with digital reading is about as much as can be expected. I want a marker of completion: this page, the next page. Somehow I never feel like I’ve reached it with a digital book. Finally I have to get up for something and realise I should have done so an hour before. And the satisfaction of lingering on the last words of a book, then closing it and putting it gently back on the shelf… well, we all have our disappointments.
Of course, digital books allow me to have “books” again. We had the best library at home. Still do, really, waiting up in an attic for us to come back to it. Here, we have two short rows on a short bookshelf, and their brevity, to a pair of souls used to continual reading, is a continued source of cognitive dissonance. So the digital word is wonderful and improves our self-imposed exile tremendously. Not to mention the ease it brings to shorter travel.
But I think it worth remember, in my odorless, non-tactile bloggy way, what we’ve (collectively) left behind: the extra-textual factors that contribute to the experience of an actual book.