Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Shopping, Books, & the Nook

Sometimes I shop at malls with my mother.  I can do the shoes-on-sale scene.  But why would I want to wear a ruffle-front mock-neck two-piece dress, a skin-tight t-shirt with crystal beads, a purple boyfriend sweater, or an animal-print trenchcoat?  

"You've never liked shopping," my mother says.

She’s pretty much right.   

I do have a dreadful vice, though.  It's called book-shopping.  

I don't care about shopping for clothes.  I always hated being dragged to holiday sales, standing in line with 100 people outside a sleek women's clothing store until it opened at 9. I'd stand in line for a dressing room while my mother riffled through satin-lined wool skirts, Nehru jackets, sweaters, knit mini-dresses, corduroy jumpers, suede coats, and whatever else was available. 

I can, however, spend hours in a bookstore.  I received two books from Amazon in the mail today, Millen Brand's The Outward Room (NYRB), "a novel about a woman's journey from madness to self-discovery," and the latest novel by Douglas Kennedy. I told myself I would order nothing else. 

But I bought a Nook last week.  I am going to have to disable the shopping option.  I have wirelessly downloaded a whole library.  

This reminds me very much of the actions of a manic student whose Kindle buying was out of control.  I was afraid to mention a book in case she bought it.  Truly.   She was a nice little addled woman but had no one to take care of her.  She didn't have the money for all that clicking.

And now I'm doing the clicking.

And I have that whole double-loyalty thing going:  Amazon for real books and B&N for virtual books.

I never bought books for my Sony Reader. I downloaded free books from manybooks.net.  So I'm quite surprised that I like to shop on my new gadget.  This whole virtual book thing turns out to be lots of fun. Just flick the switch and you can read Alison Weir's The Lady in the Tower, Antonya Nelson's new book, or Arthur Ransome's Bohemia in London.  It's the middle of the night and you want to read that sample from Pat Conroy's new book on books.  Click.

But of course I can also read infinite real books from my shelves any time I want.
This morning I tried to buy an e-book, not remembering that I'd actually bought it in the middle of the night.  Thank goodness the Nook looks after its own.

But what do I actually have?  They're VIRTUAL books. When you finish, you can't sell them or give them away. 

It very much reminds me of the chaldron in Jonathan Lethem's novel, Chronic City.  Perkus Tooth, a retired pop culture critic, falls in love with a vase in a photo on the acupuncturist's wall.  it turns out the vases, called chaldrons, are VIRTUAL.    

Perhaps I'm keen on my Nook because I've never had much technology. I don't have a phone, so I'm not always clicking around (except on my computer).  My Nook and I have become FRIENDS.  Is that what technology is all about?

The e-reader thing seems to take the whole yuppie thing up a notch.  Are there yuppies anymore?  They must be called something else.  But that's the kind of feeling I have.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  And, yes, as a friend said years ago, we all really want to be yuppies because we like their things. 

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