Something for My Fingers
I grew up on vinyl. My first, second and third sound systems all had turntables. I loved the feel, smell and sound of a new vinyl record. I have learned to enjoy listening to digital music but I still have a soft spot in my heart for the entire vinyl experience . One of my favorite things to do when getting a new record was lay on my bed, the crackle of the first cut coming up, holding the cover and inner sleeve in my hands and reading along with the lyrics. The paper had a particular smell. Even now, when I break out a record, I love the smell almost as much as the sound.
I also grew up in the age of 8 tracks and cassette tapes. I have a very distinct memory of my father sitting in my grandparents living room, recording over 8 track tapes. The record button was broken and he had to hold it down the entire time. The idea of music you could take with you, something besides the radio, was groundbreaking. When I was a teenager, having a cassette player, a personal walkman was a huge deal. You could be anywhere and have your music with you. Hard to comprehend now how revolutionary that was. Of course you had to record it and cassettes were notorious for having a very limited shelf life. The sound was also suspect. Sometimes you would get a very clean, clear sound. That rarely lasted. The older the tape got, the more the sound deteriorated. My favorite thing was when the tape would get magnetically reversed and the songs on one side would end up backwards on the other side. It was for this reason that I rarely bought cassettes. I would buy vinyl and then record them to blank cassettes. I loved making mix tapes, giving them to friends, playing them in the car. I did purchase a few cassettes and hated how most of them came without lyrics, and those that did were printed so small they were near impossible to read. It was like losing part of the listening experience.
It was an easy transition for me from vinyl to CD. The lyric sheets were readable and I still had the tangible disc to move from the case to the player and back. Much better than a cassette on all levels I realized how important that little bit of tangibility was when music began to move to a purely digital format. I love my ipod and I love my entire collection being so mobile, but I still struggle when I purchase digital copies of things. Time and time again, I will buy or download a song and then buy the hard copy. Rumor has it that CD’s are on their way out. This leaves me two choices. Go purely digital, or revert back to vinyl. I already know what I will do.
Books have also moved to digital formats. This is a harder change for me and until yesterday, I had not read a digital copy of any book. I decided to read the Hunger Games series. We own the first two books, but Sheryl bought the third in digital format for her Nook. She loves the Nook and reads most of her books on that, rather than buying hard copies that take up space.
I have the same relationship with the touch and smell of books as I do with music. Reading to me is about holding the book in my hands. feeling the paper, seeing the flaws in the ink or the pages, the scent of the ink and the glue. Still, I couldn’t find any good reason to buy a copy of something we already owned, even if it was a digital book. The screen of the Nook was easy to read. It was better than reading from a computer, better than this screen I am typing on now. The image was very much like reading a page out of an actual book, which was a good thing, but I found myself worrying that I was skipping pages. I kept looking down to see if I had scrolled past chapters or pages. While easy to read, I did not like the restrictive nature of the digital page. I could scroll ahead, jump from place to place, but it was not the same as thumbing the pages as I read. Also, if I came across something confusing, it was very hard to go back and read a paragraph or browse for a name. I am sure I was limited by my knowledge of the reader I was using, but it all seemed needlessly complicated. The thing that bothered me the most was not being able to place a bookmark, to look and see how far I had read, how much was left. How silly. How important to me.
The reading was easy, and the book was fantastic. Still, I realized how much I need the connection to something beyond a digital image. Maybe I will change, I have before, though I don’t see it coming anytime soon. Give me the hardback. Give me a trade copy. Just give me an actual book.