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Kindles and Other Modern Miracles

I am a Kindle owner, though admittedly a reluctant one. I come from a long line of bibliophiles and moving my massive and beloved library every time I’ve been uprooted in this lifetime has always been the most onerous part of what is already an ordeal.

I have bookcases throughout the house, many of which I designed myself. Bookcases line the walls of my house; some floor to ceiling, some stretch across door jambs and wind around corners. My ideal would be to have a ‘enry ‘iggins library, two stories high with one of those classic sliding library ladders, but in my present home I am cursed with wall to wall carpeting. One needs gleaming (and preferably creaking) hardwood floors to slide such a ladder across.

You can learn a lot about a person by browsing through his or her book collection. Mine leans heavily toward non-fiction, but there are a few classics, show business biographies, and even some Agatha Christie represented. I am now old enough to have inherited several libraries and though I didn’t save every volume, the additions have given my collection a much more eclectic range.

I love to hold a book in my hands, enjoy the tactile turning of pages and savoring their rich texture. I don’t remember not having a library card, but I still buy a lot of books because most of my reading is for historical research and I often return to many of them with their highlighted passages, margin notes and post-it bookmarks. Besides I just love to own books.

Despite all of the above, I travel a lot and the obvious advantages of having 3,000 books in a tiny six ounce bundle was tempting. I pondered taking the plunge for many months, and the tipping point was one particularly stressful trip in which I was obliged to schlepp a typically weighty library book through countless airports because it was due the day of my return, and it weighed too much to pack!

So I bought the Kindle. Although I have embraced most of the technological and social media marvels available in the 21st century, I am far from a master of any of them and it took me two hours just to download my first title! (Actually, that was pretty good for me: it took me more than two days to figure out how to answer my latest cell phone!)

So now I am on my third Kindle book. Why I “borrow” a book from my local library’s website and “return” it to is still a mystery, as is why I need to return a book at all. Isn’t it just air, after all? Someone suggested to me that it probably has to do with copyrights and legal things – which are also on my list of life’s unanswerable mysteries – so I’m just going to go with the flow for the time being.

So far I have just downloaded free library books and have yet to invest in an e-book of my own. If I have trouble with the borrowing and returning of e-books, you can bet I have a problem with paying for a book I’ll never be able to touch, or hold, or display on a bookshelf – but I’m working on it!

Shebby Lee is a historian, writer and tour operator specializing in the historic and cultural heritage of the Great American West. Her early training was in the theatre and she served a tour of duty as an entertainer with the USO. She is also an Admiral in the Nebraska Navy.

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