This past Christmas Eve, a small box was set on my lap by my son and daughter-in-law sporting Cheshire cat grins. I unwrapped it and pulled out an iPad nestled inside a zipped pouch. Much like my iPhone though larger, I found it easy to use and I moved from Facebook to Google to Mail and back again. One application, the “Kindle for ipad” opened up Amazon and with one touch of my finger, I downloaded the novel Corrections by Jonathan Franzen all within less than a minute. It took me several days to begin reading it. For several more days, I thumbed and read through the paperback Water for Elephants. When done, I turned it over, read the back pages, the front pages and then let them fall to ease as I put that paperback on the night stand.
It was then that I considered the iPad in its case on the chair across the room. I picked it up, opened Corrections and taught myself how to work with this new reading medium: no page numbers, no way to tell how big the book was going to be, no smell. But here’s the clincher: no dirt, plot details if you want them, touch an unknown word and its definition pops up, swipe the glass with your index finger and the next one appears, take a break and bookmark the page with a finger’s touch, change the print size for tired eyes. It took me about three days to know I would never go back to paper except to read those books already in queue; it took me three days as a librarian to recognize the sea change in front of readers; three days to realize that books weren’t going away as all the nay sayers were howling, they were just changing. Do I recommend a Kindle or iPad or whatever you want to call this post modern ebook reader? Positively yes, they are for everyone, the tiny ones, the elderly and everyone in between. And frankly, I don’t miss the smell.