Justly proud, a writer friend sent me a gift of her just-published ebook from Amazon. A recalcitrant tech user, I groaned (my smartphone isn’t, I refuse to text, and I don’t cart an Ipad everywhere). Working primarily at home, I honor my credo (and possible haiku): “Stationary body, soaring mind.”
Although my friend didn’t know of this motto, she must have intuited my proclivity; she mentioned in her note that if I had no ereader I could download software for desktops from Amazon.
Kindle for desktops! If this is not an oxymoron, it’s surely a minor miracle.
At the risk of diluting my antediluvian reputation, I downloaded the PC software with little trouble (similar software is offered for Apple). Almost instantly, a nifty logo appeared on the folder of my personal “library”: a silhouette of a boy sitting against a tree trunk reading, above him an artistic cloud of black branches with a bold ochre “Kindle” across the center. A rich deep blue background completed the fetching picture. I was excited.
The only hitch was puzzling how to actually command my friend’s book to migrate from Amazon onto my Kindle account. After combing every inch of the screen, I found the magic box and clicked on it. And then appeared, right on my own personalized Kindle (shiver), her title. I opened it and viewed . . . a book.
As I poked around a little more, imagine my shock when three more books appeared in my Kindle folder. Free. In its librarianlike wisdom, from past searches and purchases, Amazon had psyched me out. It knew I was no fan of romance, thrillers, dystopiana, or best barbecue recipes from the firehouse women’s auxiliary. Rather, I was rewarded with Treasure Island, Aesop’s Fables, and Pride and Prejudice.
I explored more free books and noticed the voluminous number of categories. Of course I chose the classics, and the list of authors here alone is staggering. A very small sampling: Aristotle, Austin, Brontes, Cervantes, Conrad, Dante, Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Doyle, Hardy, Homer, Kipling, Melville, Plato, Poe, Shakespeare, Twain, Wells, Whitman, Wilde. Immovable feast indeed! Not to look greedy, I timidly downloaded a few.
Mesmerized, I opened one of my downloads, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations (for a light break), and got acquainted with the features. You can read by vertical screen scrolling, by horizontal page turning, or by viewing two columns on a page. You can change your font size, color, and brightness. You can go full screen or not. You can place bookmarks and write notes; you can go to specific locations and find all uses of specific words (I tried “god” and got 100 hits). You can arrange your “library” by author, title, type of book, or most recent. I grew giddy.
As I calmed down, I realized that the Word-like features aren’t the only uses. For us writers, accessing books here, and even buying a few, gives us instant references for quotations, allusions, research, fact-checking, and short respites from writing. And not least, if we choose the classics, we can indulge in the delicious reading of books assigned in college and not quite read: Walden, Great Expectations, Paradise Lost, The Iliad, A Farewell to Arms, Ragtime.
My idea of a vacation is to sit at my desktop Kindle, coffee at my elbow, a little Mozart in the background, and read a few of these $00.00 books not on the infinite to-do list and for a reason currently out of fashion—pure edification.
Granted, a book in the hand still beats two on the screen. And my PC Kindle is the cumbersome cousin of the many portable variations. Nor could I ever argue with the marvelous and effortless transportability of your own library of “books” taken on planes, trains, and picnics in the park. But Kindle on my PC is still a marvel.
Even if you possess every mobile device produced as of yesterday, consider this option. To have all the books of our choice a click away not only feels good but keeps us grounded in literature. And reminds us of the giants on whose shoulders we stand as we make our mark.
Author, editor, writing coach, and spiritual counselor, Noelle Sterne writes fiction and nonfiction, having published over 300 pieces in print and online venues, including Writer’s Digest, The Writer, ReadLearnWrite, Women on Writing, Transformation Magazine, 11.11, and Unity booklets. Her monthly column, “Bloom Where You’re Writing,” appears in Coffeehouse for Writers. With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, for over 28 years Noelle has helped doctoral candidates complete their dissertations (finally), with a practical-psychological-spiritual handbook in progress. In her book Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books; one of ten best 2011 ebooks), she draws examples from her practice and other aspects of life to help writers and others release regrets, relabel their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings. With Trust Your Life, Noelle appears in the Unity Books 2013 “Summer of Self-Discovery.” Discussions appear on Goodreads: http://www.unity.org/publications/unity-books/summer-reading-series, Her webinar on the book of June 26, 2013, can be heard and seen on YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?V=95EeqllONIQ.