Last week I finished “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and tonight on the way home I’ll finish “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris. Because I’ve been reading a book every week and a half since I started work, I’ve been toying with the idea of buying an e-reader some day. You know, once I’m caught up on rent and all those other pesky expenses I let myself get behind on while unemployed.
It seems like every other person on the train has one, and I’ve been secretly admiring them from behind the cover of a actual, physical book, suddenly feeling all antiquated. E-readers, as opposed to my paperbacks, are so small and easily contained and, most importantly, can be held one-handed while the other hand is busy holding on for dear life, as the train pummels its way between unexpectedly abrupt stops. Don’t even get me started on trying to manage a hard cover book with one hand.
This week I visited Barnes & Noble with a gift card from my sister-in-law burning a hole in my pocket. I almost bought Tina Fey’s new book, “Bossypants,” but it’s not available in paperback yet. I ended up going with the new Hungry Girl cookbook, although that’s not exactly something I’ll be poring over on the bus. If I had an e-reader I could be reading “Bossypants” long before it’s available in paperback, six months from now.
Another concern is my upcoming plan to re-visit David Foster Wallace’s epic novel “Infinite Jest,” which long-time readers might remember I attempted to get through last summer. I made it about a third of the way before packing it up with my belongings and moving to Chicago. Until very recently it was abandoned in a file box, its mandatory two bookmarks still in place. It would be nice to condense those 1,079 pages into one intangible digital file, neatly packed inside a thin e-reader a mere 1/4 the size of the actual book — probably about 1/8 of the weight too, holy crap. But then, with “Infinite Jest” comes those crazy footnotes in the back, and how would THAT work on an e-reader? There’s a lot to look into, but I can’t say I’m not curious.
In my opinion, the biggest drawback to an e-reader is a fairly vain one; I have this image in my head of some terribly well-read boy standing next to me one morning on our commute, and he’ll be so impressed by whatever I’m reading that he can’t keep himself from commenting. We’ll have a witty, banter-filled conversation debating authors whose books I’ll pretend to have already read while making a mental to-read list behind my raptly-attentive eyes. He’ll recommend something and offer to lend me a copy, I’ll give him my number and then we’ll get married below the Chicago Theatre marquee outside the Redline stop at Lake. You know, something like that. But how will this fictional boy know what fiction I’m currently reading if all I’m holding up is a nondescript e-reader identical to everyone else’s? I can’t compete with all the cute brunettes doing the exact same thing on either side of me.
And yet, I’m thinking about rewarding myself with an e-reader at the end of the summer, for doing something like reading 30 books in three months, or meeting a weight goal, or for actually saving up more money than an e-reader costs. We’ll see. Who’s got one or wants one? What do you think of them, and what would you recommend?