I didn’t used to be like this. Until a handful of years ago, I faithfully relied on my slim Kindle, a nearly ancient version featuring the miniature keyboard and absolutely no touch screen. You had to click through the pages, back and forth, via oblong buttons on the side of the device. “Flipping through” a book meant furiously clicking back a page at a time and hoping you’d land somewhere near that sentence you really liked but forgot to bookmark. And then repeating the process to get back to where you were. It made recalling passages nearly impossible. You simply couldn’t go back to something you didn’t have the foresight to highlight. On the other hand, it encouraged progression like any good electronic device; the meter at the bottom of the screen encouraged me to read faster, consume more, and hoard titles – instantly delivered via wi-fi! – in my slim, gray bank. I bought into it, becoming the ideal Amazon customer. I bought e-books because “they’re so much cheaper than the print versions,” and left them to hibernate. I became those people who buy books – print or electronic – as if purchasing literature would also include the instant download of the thought and intellect required to actually read and comprehend what was inside. Books, by virtue of their ability to be consumed in bulk, were the new intellectual status symbol.
Somehow, through this era of enarmorment with an “electronic reading device,” I was able to retain enough self-awareness to realize that I wouldn’t be able to read anything remotely thought-provoking in an electronic format. Those books remained out of reach, simply because recalling themes and paragraphs would either take several days to click back to, or the process would be so frustrating that I would invariably drive my head through a wall. This, coupled with the purchase of an iPhone that turned my life into a parody of human interaction, switching from screen to screen to screen to screen, finally broke me. I ricocheted back to real books, embracing the ability to literally thumb through creamy pages fat with words.