I had lunch with Jay and Katherine and Mimi at Venus today, and I spontaneously ordered the beautiful dish a woman at a neighboring table was eating, which ended up being fabulous: "zesty spiced rubbed local, wild rock cod fillet with brown rice, fennel, arugula, & citrus-avocado salsa." It was one of the best things I've ever eaten!
And Katherine and Jay gave me an e-book reader for my birthday! I've generally been leery of the whole e-book phenomenon, primarily just because I'm a big fan of books as physical objects, works of art, permanent possessions, decorating tools, and real-life companions. I like the smooth feel of the dust cover, the dry smell of the paper, the occasional letterpress book with ink sunk in slight indentations, the occasional random word or sentence scribbled in the margin (either by my younger self or by some previous owner of the book), etc. The idea of reading a book that only exists in the aether is sort of disturbing and disconcerting. And I think I felt some kind of irrational disloyalty to old friends when I even thought about it.
BUT ... I've gotta admit it's convenient. So I figure I'll have some things I read on paper, some things I read as an e-book, and some things I listen to on audio. Things I want to keep forever and reread and reread (Mary Doria Russell, Mark Twain, Louise Erdrich, Robertson Davies, Raymond Chandler, Ray Bradbury, John Crowley, Tom Stoppard, Ursula Hegi, Wallace Stegner, Arundhati Roy, Salman Rushdie, Oscar Wilde, Patricia McKillip, Jane Austen, Jose Saramago, Michael Ondaatje, Thich Nhat Hanh, E.M. Forster, Jasper Fforde, Stieg Larsson, Jonathan Lethem, Susan Minot, Jennifer Johnston, etc., etc., etc.) deserve a place on our physical shelves, where we can always find them, whether electronics break down or companies go out of business or whatever. But convenience can play a role, too.
One cool thing about e-books: You don't have to prop them open. This occasionally bothers me when I'm trying to eat while reading a paper book, because I don't like having one of my hands eternally occupied. What if I want to take a drink with the hand that isn't holding my fork? That pesky book gets in my way!
Another cool thing about e-books: You can carry about a gazillion of them on one small, lightweight device. (This will be especially great for traveling.)
Another cool thing about e-books: You can download stuff from relatively distant libraries (such as San Francisco), straight to your reader, without having to travel all over the place on public transit.
Another cool thing about e-books: They fear not the silverfish. And attract not the silverfish, for that matter. (I hate silverfish.)
Katherine and Jay rock. As for Mimi (who is 4), I don't think she participated in the choosing of the gift, but she spent part of the lunch drawing blue circles all over herself with a "semi-permanent" marker from Ikea, and part of the lunch singing "Godzilla" by Blue Oyster Cult (which I had never heard before):
Oh, no, they say he's got to go
Go go Godzilla
Oh, no, there goes Tokyo
Go go Godzilla
But now I'm exhausted, and I'm going to fall unconscious for a while before getting things done this afternoon. Zzzzzz.