I feel compelled to start off by stating that I am not a Luddite. The library where I served as director back in 1995 was the first municipal library in New Jersey to have its own website and that same year I was also responsible for a project that got the website for that town's municipal government up and running. Back in the 1980s, I was an enthusiastic user of Dialog and BRS, the gold standard of electronic databases. Then, a few years later when I was working as a medical librarian, I was well on my way to reaching virtuoso status as a user of Medline and the other highly technical online databases offered by the National Library of Medicine.
So why don't I own an e-reader?
For starters, I just haven't yet felt that I needed one. Since I'm surrounded by books at work seven hours a day, five days a week, I already have access to more of the print and audio books I would like to read than I can ever reasonably hope to make my way through. Also, by virtue of the fact that I regularly read the reviews in Publisher's Weekly, I am just not spending a lot of my time trolling Amazon.com or other websites to figure out what I want to read next.
But there's more than just that going on here. As a reluctant typist who, in my late 30s, embraced word processing as one of the 20th century's greatest inventions, I always felt something approaching pity toward those writers - usually over age 50 - who were unwilling or unable to make the switch from their beloved typewriters to a keyboard and computer monitor.
So now, at age 60, when faced with e-readers, I guess my turn has come to be looked at with a certain degree of pity. My husband is an enthusiastic ipad owner who has tried, so far unsuccessfully, to at least get me reading the Sunday New York Times on his device. In spite of the ipad's obvious virtures, I still feel like I suffer from "fat finger syndrome," my inability to consistently go where I actually want to when trying to navigate on the touch screen. And no, I cannot explain why my husband, who is even a couple of years older than I am, is not similarly impaired. And although I happily write using a computer, I continue to believe that my brain has been totally hard wired for reading in print.
Through our membership in a consortium, the library where I work has been providing access for our patrons to downloadable audiobooks for the past several years; more recently the consortium also began providing access to e-books. But my position has been that as long as the library provides both print and electronic access to popular titles, we are under no obligation to provide e-reading devices for people who don't already own one of their own. We don't, after all, loan DVD players to our patrons who happen not to own one.
But the inevitable will be happening - over the next several weeks, my library is likely going to be purchasing a couple of e-readers specifically so they can be checked out by our patrons. What has changed is the fact that people have started asking for stuff that's only available as an e-book, specifically Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James, a novel that takes readers into the world of BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism - I had to look it up) and which has been getting amazing pr in such places as New York Post, New York Times and CNN. Even in spite of the fact that Vintage Books, a division of Knopf Doubleday, has just come up this past week with a seven figure advance for the print publishing rights to all three titles in James' trilogy, I can no longer shrug off the fact the until the print editions are released, my library patrons are being underserved. And E. L. James is not the only one - Stephen King, Tom Perrotta and Dead Guy's own Jeff Cohen are only a few of the ever growing number of established authors who have made the decision to initially release something they have written in e-format only.
Okay, so does anyone have any suggestions for how to alleviate "fat finger syndrome"?
Postscript: I am writing this as I am listening to a simulcast from the New York Metropolitan Opera of Don Giovanni, arguably Mozart's (or anyone else's) greatest opera. Taking up Erin's theme of encouraging Dead Guy readers to try something out of your comfort zone, I can't resist this opportunity to urge all you lovers of crime fiction to give Don Giovanni a try as you will encounter the following: rape, murder,revenge, assault, identity theft, possible violations of Spanish labor law, a ghost, demons and hellfire. It also has moments of great comedy, pathos and terror in addition to some of the most sublime music you will ever encounter.