It took me quite a while to even consider taking the plunge into purchasing an e-reader. I spent at least a year allowing the very term to wrangle its way into my brain, pondering the world-shattering question of whether I would consider using one, so traitorous it seemed. It took an impending long work trip, and several months leading up to that flight to actually sit down and contemplate which reader I might want and when I should purchase it.
After weighing the relative benefits of the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet (giving also great consideration to the iPad), I wound up purchasing a Nook for my trip. The reasons for this particular choice were clear – while I do love my Apple products, and the iPad looks like a fun gadget to add to my arsenal, it seemed a little large and unwieldy to substitute for a book on a plane.
Plus, I wanted to be able to say “Nook book.”
And there you have it.
I bought my Nook at a bricks and mortar Barnes & Noble, thinking that there was some noble merit in patronizing a real life store. Perhaps it would allow B&N to stay viable for a little longer. I brought it home and really enjoyed its feel and the novelty of it. I decided that I would wait for my trip to dig into a book, but I spent several weeks deciding which books I would download and bring on my trip.
The downloading was where it began to lose me.
Usually, when I am about to depart on a trip that will require at least several hours on a plane, I give myself the great gift of a trip to my favorite bookstore, Politics & Prose, and spend some time fondling all the possible reading partners for the upcoming trip. By the time I make my final selections, I am practically breathless with anticipation for my new companions, and can’t wait to start. The books then sit on my shelf by my bed (along with the 100 other books waiting to be read that I have somehow acquired over the years), waiting for the moment that they get placed in my carry-on bag. Once we’re on the plane, at last the book can be opened, the spine cracked, and the reading pleasure can commence.
But with the Nook, I really needed to know what books I wanted to download. There is no real browsing ability, let alone pleasure, unless you have a sense of what you’re browsing for. I tried to link into the library, without much success (their e-book selection is pretty grim) and although I keep a running list on my iPhone of what books I want to read, so that when I am in a bookstore or a library I know what to add to my pile, it wasn’t a whole lot of fun to simply consult that list, select the book and press the download button. I missed the sensual pleasure of running my hand across the bookshelf, let alone opening up the book to get a sneak preview of both the first and last page.
But I was still hopeful. As I mentioned, I liked the feel of the Nook, and I had purchased a cover that made it feel even more like a real book. And I had a 13-hour trip in front of me, with all the reading time in the world.
Except I didn’t anticipate the newest in-flight enticement, at least on long flights with international carriers: personalized movie selection. Not only are there personal screens right in front of your face, so that you no longer have to crane your neck to see the little screen several rows ahead of you, but there is now the ability to select your own movies from a list of at least 30 – and you can start them at any time.
Now, usually I am a snob about in-flight movies. I prefer to take out my heavy and often serious book so that all the world can see how heavy and serious I am. Plus, I do love to lose myself in a great read (see Dominique Browning’s fun treatise on airplane reading.) But I have to admit these movies were a little slice of heaven. I could watch “Bridesmaids”, “Beginners” and, in anticipation of my trip, “2 Days in Paris,” with no one complaining that I was abusing my Netflix privileges. Without blinking, and without taking out my Nook, we had arrived at our destination.
Ok, so no Nookie on the flight over. I still had two weeks of travel ahead of me, plus a long flight back home.
But the brave little Nook, sitting out on my bedside table in each hotel room I was in, did nothing for me. It wasn’t calling out to me with an attractive cover, reminding me of the story inside. It didn’t sit with dogeared pages, begging to be picked up and finished. It didn’t scream “Read me!” at any moment during my trip. It simply sat, with the same pretty plain green cover, with five books inside, waiting patiently for me to remember that there were books to be read.
It was way too modest. It didn’t grab me. I had places to go and things to do, and I needed a more flamboyant reminder of my book friends waiting for me each night.
It wasn’t until I got on the second leg of my return flight home (the first leg was spent pleasantly chatting with a colleague for four hours) that I thought it might be time to open the Nook. But “Crazy Stupid Love” and “The Ides of March” were first calling my name.
Finally, I opened the Nook. I had about three hours left to go. I selected which book I wanted to start, and I got involved. While the touching of the screen to turn the page wasn’t nearly as satisfying as feeling the paper between my fingers, I pressed on, literally.
And then, 45 minutes before we landed, engrossed in my first Nook book at last, the flight attendant tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to put it away, as the pilot had turned on the fasten seat belt sign to begin our descent, and all electronics needed to be turned off and stored.
I was dumbfounded. I have always relied on books to see my through descents, both because I get a little scared and sometimes because they help me forget that I’m feeling a little motion sick. This fine point of Nook ownership had completely eluded me – I was being prevented from reading until the bitter end. I felt censored.
And so my Nook was closed, and I got terribly motion sick (maybe the two weren’t related, but you never know.) And I felt bereft - I really wanted to know what was happening to my protagonist at that very moment. I was barred from finding out.
I decided that the price of electronic reading was too high.
So when I came home, I placed the Nook back on my bedside bookshelf, with the book in which I was so engrossed still unfinished. I have since picked up at least two other real books to start. I will finish the Nook book at some point. Not sure what I’ll do about the other four. I’m sure I’ll read them. And I’m sure that at some point, I’ll find the Nook useful.
In the meantime, my daughter has asked if she can use the Nook tablet to watch movies and play games on our upcoming trip to California.
Of course, I replied, smiling to myself, feeling beneficent and already plotting in my mind which delicious, non-virtual books from my shelf will accompany us on that upcoming trip.
Photo by edvvc via Flickr