Touchy Feely

Kenny is currently reading The Brothers Karamazov on my iPhone. He feels that once he has succeeded in reading Dostoevsky's tome in English, he will have reached some pinnacle of language learning and will then be magically filled with inspiration. I guess then, he's going to write something. In English? Not sure. But the thing is, it bothers me.

It bothers me that he is reading this novel on an iPhone.

I love my iPhone. It's like a permanent extension of my right hand. I'm absolutely enamored with this piece of technology that puts the Internet in my pocket 24/7. And with Korea's super-duper technology obsession, there's pretty much free wi-fi in the street. I read blogs on my iPhone; I read Tweets on my iPhone (isn't that what it was made for, anyway?); I read emails on my iPhone. But I do not read books. Nope.

I don't count it as reading. There should be a cover. There should be the turning of pages. There should be scribbling in margins, underlining sentences, bracketing paragraphs, and marking entire chapters. I also have a habit of moving the book around constantly as I'm reading it. It's a strange habit and I didn't know I did it until my best friend Kerri asked me why I was doing that to the book. I hold it in both hands and bend the pages away from each other, then let them fall back together. I don't break the binding, but I just read with this slow widening of the book, this back and forth motion with my hands. I often rub my right thumb over the pages I have left to read, perhaps measuring how much further our relationship will progress.

I love the snot out of my books. There's something about the weight of the page, the set of the type, the width of the binding that marries the story itself in my hands. I could possibly be blindfolded and handed any number of books from my collection and tell you without looking which book it was. I'm kind of touchy feely with my books. I also have an initial press that I clamp around the cover of most of my books when I get them. So, sometimes, while I'm subtly rocking my book, I'm running my fingers over the small ridges of the lowercase cursive d and my maiden-name b.

Maybe I'm a little neurotic about the act of reading itself. I'm okay with this. I'm never going to be a Kindle person, or any kind of electronic reading device person. I am well aware it is more portable, more affordable, more convenient. But it does not sit right with my insides. Something feels fake, forced, and disconnected. When I read a story, somehow it becomes a part of me and shifts things around in my guts, my heart. Maybe sometimes the shift is imperceptible. But it's there. And I feel it with a book in my hands, pages between my fingers, without buzzing or beeping.

So last night, after almost 4 hours of watching Kenny read The Brothers Karamazov in a coffee shop, I came home and pulled out the book itself. It felt so good. As I opened it and flipped through it, I remembered not so much the story in the book, but the way I had felt while reading it. The texture of the pages, the weight of it in my hands woke something up inside me. I said, "How can you not want to hold this?" I believe in good writing. And I believe that there is crap out there in beautiful binding. But when good writing and satisfying binding come together, it takes reading to another level altogether for me.

For those of you reading on a screen, the story remains the same. The words are in the same order, sometimes even on the same number of pages. But I still think there's something missing!

What about you? Are you a tactile reader or a technological reader?
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