I’VE READ 77 PERCENT of my current book. (Did I used to know my progress through a novel so exactly, so mathematically? No. Did I care? No.) But that is the Kindle: precise. It has made me aware of my habitual reading rhythm. With a normal book, I have discovered, I often start to turn the page, holding it poised, midway, while reading the last few words. But when I push the turn-the-page button on my Kindle, it makes the switch instantaneously. Until I realized I had to read everything before the transition, I lost whole phrases. There is something lost in grace, too, when the slow, ruminative turn (or, for that matter, the excited, end-of-book whip), controlled by thumb and forefinger, is no longer possible.
The whole business is weird. There is an anonymity to the colorless pages, and no cover, so the sense of a book waiting for you to come back to it—almost like a person, or a particularly attractive dog—is attenuated. It is harder to get drawn in. Maybe there is something more tactile about an actual book, even a humble, much-fondled paperback.
On the bright side, literally, I have named my Kindle (Pumpkin) and equipped her with an orange cover that has a light built in, making it possible to read at bedtime without a lamp, or on an airplane when they’ve turned off the overheads (the downside is that you have to power down during takeoff, which is when I really, really need diversion). For even more legibility, I can up the type size.
Pumpkin automatically registers where I leave off reading, which is nice (I love a good bookmark, but they do slip out, and I have a number of friends who frown on dog-eared corners), and should I feel moved to highlight a stirring quote or comment on the text, I can do that, too.
I began, however, with a highly accessible bestseller-type book that isn’t exactly ripe for annotation (entitled Russian Winter, it’s got ballet dancers and history and jewelry and romance—what could be more toothsome?). Whether Pumpkin will hold up when I’m reading something denser or more demanding, I can’t say. I can say that I bought all the D’Artagnan novels of Alexandre Dumas for $1.99. A bargain even if I don’t get past The Three Musketeers.