I am a writer. I believe in the printed word. But I've been trying to wrap my head around the idea that there's no intrinsic reason that words are better appreciated on paper. Call it my survival instinct.
So in a nod to the earth shifting under our feet, I've been exploring various hand-held electronic devices for viewing books. And, to my surprise, I have come to praise the iPhone for reading a book. I'm not saying that I prefer it in every case -- because I don't -- but consider this:
I am having the best time reading Moby-Dick on my phone.
On paper, it's more than 800 pages and weighs in at nearly two pounds. That's daunting. But in the bite-sized chunks on my phone, it feels less overwhelming ... and fun.
Stanza, the program that I used to get Herman Melville's classic, tells me exactly how much I've read. Page two of chapter 8? That's 6.4 percent. I can change the background, the color, the size of the font.
And while standing in line waiting with my daughter to get her the H1N1 vaccine, I pulled out my phone and read Moby-Dick for an hour. Time well-spent that didn't require me to drag the massive tome with me, let alone plan to drag it.
One extra plus: The phone has back-lighting. So on a pleasant evening, I can sit outside and read a book in the dark or lay in bed and read with the lights out.
I won't stop buying "real" books, but I will no longer trash the idea of reading a book electronically. And as Nicholson Baker pointed out in a recent New Yorker piece, when the writing pulls you in, questions about format drift away. That's when the magic takes over and you enter the world of the story.