BookBin2012: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

And so it begins, denizens—another year of documenting what’s being read here at the lair. I know that many of you take on the annual 50 Book Challenge or some variation on this theme. I applaud any sort of challenge that encourages more reading. As a victorious participant in such a challenge a few years ago, I’m satisfied in knowing that I was able to meet this number once. Now, my personal challenge continues to be about sifting through my continuously growing library, reading the books that have been patiently awaiting their moment in the spotlight, and deciding if they deserve to remain a part of Loba’s Book Worship Society.

(Truth is, I really don’t like parting with books at all [except for those written by people with names like Stieg Larsson or Bret Easton Ellis]. However, I’ve yet to inherit any long-forgotten ancestral castles, so I must remain vigilant that my addiction to books does not outpace the space available to me.)

This year I’m going to focus even more on my own library rather than books I discover at the local library. I know, I said this last year…although, in my defense, I did read more of my own books than library books last year. Of the 45.5 books I read in 2011, 28 of them were previously unread books from my collection; only 18 were library books (including that abysmal one that I refused to finish). Of the 28 reads from my collection, I ended up donating 6 of them to the local charity shop. Of course, I then ended up buying my own copy (or rather, receiving it as a present) of one of the books I borrowed from the library and adding three more to my wish list for future purchase.

Still, progress was made!

On to 2012 then. You’ll notice the breakdown of my “BookBin2012” progress list is a little different this year. Really, I’m just breaking down the process to keep better track of my tally. You will notice, however, a new set of options: “Save” or “Delete.” These would be in deference to the gorgeous Amazon Kindle I received for my birthday last year.

Yes, I have entered the digital age in regard to my reading.

That, in fact, is really what this particular book review is all about. Yes, I did recently finish reading Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. This is not the first time I have read it, and it won’t be the last. I’m quite fond of Irving and have already discussed my particular soft spot for Ichabod Crane. I think Irving’s quaint, creepy tale is a magnificent novella worthy of the few hours that it will take you to enjoy it.

Instead, I’d like to focus on the experience of reading my first eBook. First, I have to say, I adore my Kindle. It’s not one of the new Kindle Fire tablets, so there are no flashing colors and Wi-Fi temptations of online surfing or Netflix streaming. This is as it should be, in my nerdy, hipster, literature-worshipping opinion. It’s bad enough that you can play games on the original Kindles.

Okay, honestly, that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing with my Kindle since I received it. I downloaded Scrabble and a Word Search game (I am a Word Search BOSS), and they have served as suitable distractions from actual reading. This is a problem.

The primary problem, however, is I have some sort of strange aversion to reading books in an electronic format. I don’t really know how to explain it any other way, and I’m not sure how I can completely overcome it. It’s been a part of my collection of proclivities for a while, though. Way back when I first entered the PC world, my uncle gave me a CD-ROM that contained a huge selection of classic literature. It was with this disc that I made my first attempt at reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Something about reading it on a computer screen, however, became a huge hurdle that I simply could not surmount, and a few weeks later I ended up purchasing a copy of the book so that I could read it that way.

Guess what’s loaded onto my Kindle as my next eBook experience? Oh, Count, you will be conquered electronically. I swear it.

Admittedly, the most off-putting aspect of this first attempt at reading a book electronically was the distracting and somewhat painfully bright white screen. The Kindle’s screen, however, is remarkably deferential to a “real” book page. The background color is soft and muted, the text is crisp, and the screen is dulled to prevent accidental glare-induced blindness. It still took me a little while to get into the groove of reading on the Kindle (something about the text being a little too crisp became my latest distraction), but I was able to finally let go and read.

Was it enjoyable? Yes. The Kindle 3G (the version I have) is a perfectly acceptable size, especially when placed inside a cover like mine is. Not only does the cover protect my Kindle when I slip it into a backpack, it also serves as another means of fooling my brain into believing that I’m reading an actual book.

That being said, I simply don’t foresee the Kindle ever replacing real books, either in general or for me in particular. I know, I know. Vinyl records gave way to CDs. Video tapes surrendered to DVDs. Film cameras are on the endangered species list thanks to digital cameras. There’s a difference, though. All these other replacements improved upon their predecessors (for the most part; my video tapes never stopped me from skipping all the advertising flotsam at the beginning of the movie). Books, however, are different. Books can go anywhere. I can take a book on a plane and never be told that I have to put it away so the captain can land. I can accidentally step on a book and it’ll survive relatively unscathed. I can read a book in the bathtub and if I drop it, I dry it out. If I drop my Kindle in the bathtub…very bad things happen, denizens.

Plus, let’s not forget the beauty of the discounted and/or used book. I say it all the time, I love things like Amazon Marketplace or the bookstore bargain bins. There’s a certain satisfaction in finding a used book in perfect condition and for an even more perfect price.

Also, there is something about the tangibility of a book that simply cannot be replaced. There’s the supple give of the cover, the crackling of the spine, the soft scratch of the pages between your fingertips…reading a book is a ceremony of singular joy.

I’m probably deluding myself into believing that books won’t one day be replaced by eReaders. Although, it wasn’t a Kindle loaded up with the complete works of The Bard that Captain Picard kept in his ready room, now was it?

Of course, there is the sanitary aspect of the eReader that I find appealing. For all my support and love of our local library, there’s always that part of my brain that I struggle to silence when reading a library book. It’s that part of my brain that wants to constantly remind me that many others have handled this book…molested it with sticky, germy hands…taken it places that I really don’t want to think about…done things with it that I struggle to resist imagining…

Okay, I need to stop now before I ruin the library for everyone.

Even putting aside my strange bibliogermophobia, however, I still salivate whenever I see a large collection of books. This past weekend, for example, we walked past the Parkway Central Library of the Free Library of Philadelphia. I bet you can still see my nose prints on the glass as I peered longingly in at All. Those. Books.

Do I see my Kindle replacing my book collection? No. Do I see it augmenting my reading experience? I think so. We’re going to give it a proper go this year, for certain. I’m going to try to read at least one eBook every month throughout 2012. I’ve already collected plenty of reading options, thanks to Amazon’s Free Collection. Plus, with options like Open Library, Project Gutenberg, or ManyBooks, as well as more and more libraries providing eBooks as a borrowing option, I could theoretically spend the entire year reading nothing but what’s on my Kindle.

But then what would I do with all these books?

Final Verdict: I’m saving The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and keeping my fingers crossed that my Kindle experience continues to be an enjoyable one.