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It’s so convenient to buy books with one click. I have loved that feature for years.

Napoleon1

But then, I just recently bought Napoleon: A Life and was in for a surprise: First, the Kindle edition was more expensive than the paperback version. Ok – I am used to that now.

But I didn’t realize it until I started reading: This book is HUGE.

Napoleon2

Here is a copy I saw at the bookstore. [Yes, I go to the bookstore to browse but then buy on Amazon. I am a bookstore mooch, and a mooch, and a mooch, and a mooch].

This book is as huge as The Count of Monte Cristo, or The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, or Pillars of the Earth, or War and Peace (I haven’t finished this so I can’t show you a review).

This is the folly of the 1-click-buy: If I had realized that this is a book with almost a thousand pages of small print, or 24,000 Kindle locations, I would probably have passed on it. It’ll take me weeks to go through that.

And now back to reading. I am at 25% already….

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Books – Our Old Friends

Watership Down

My study/studio has a high row of built-in bookshelves all the way around the periphery. While the majority of my book collection rests in boxes in the garage, a few select ones, either those that I have recently read, or special books I have brought out because I want to read them again, sit on the shelves that surround me every day when I work.

When I sit at my desk while I talk on the phone, I like to throw up my feet, and lean back in my chair. As I look up, right above me, next to a recessed light, is my old copy of Watership Down. It has been resting there for years, to be picked up and read again. I don’t remember the last time I read it, but I am sure it’s been at least 25 years. That book, like many others, is an iconic old friend.

Today, when I browsed through the queued posts in my WordPress reader, I came to this blog entry by Emily J., where she shows her favorite books on a shelf high up in her bedroom. Immediately I noticed the first book there: Watership Down. Immediately I could relate, and then I read the whole post, which I might have missed otherwise.

Books, especially those we have read before, are our old friends. We have spent many hours with them, touching them, holding them, saving them, and looking at them. The color of the cover alone gave Watership Down away. Just like artwork on the covers of old vinyl record albums, the artwork on book covers, since we see it all the time, creates a mental association with the book itself, and we like the book for two reasons: Its content and its cover.

Sadly, I haven’t bought a hardcopy novel in at least four years. All my books are now stored in an account, and I can access them all from my Kindle, and even my smartphone, any time I want. I now prefer reading on my devices to holding a hardcopy book for a lot of reasons.

But I have no associations with the covers of the books. I don’t even know what they might look like in most cases. My Kindle books don’t sit around in my house and surprise me with their colors. I don’t recognize the books of others that they read in their Kindles, like I recognized Emily’s in her post. Our new books are detached from us. We still have relationships with them, but relationships of a different kind.

Where will all the knowledge of mankind go, when one day there is no more electricity, nobody charges Kindles anymore, and there are no hardcopy books? The danger is that we can all descend into the stone age within just a few weeks. But it won’t even have to be a civilization-killing catastrophe that ends it all. What happens when one day Amazon no longer exists?

That may seem like a shocking thought. I bet it hasn’t occurred to Jeff Bezos that one day Amazon will not exist. Or Google. Or Apple. How many companies do you know that are over 100 years old? Probably very few. One day, sooner or later, Amazon will encounter the same fate that mighty Kodak had to face. And it may not take 100 years. Where will all my books be then, when I can’t connect to Amazon and look them up?

Books were our old friends, but even old friends are not with us forever.

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I love reviews, both reading and writing them. But there is a dark side.

I review every book I read and every movie I watch. You can check my ratings key page for details. I try to be clear, but I know I am subjective. I have watched 4-star movies and didn’t like them, and stated that. I have read classic novels and I didn’t like them.

Before I buy any book, I read the Amazon reviews. There are always many 5-star reviews, some in the middle,  and there are some 1-star reviews. And here is the dark side: No matter how good the author, there are always 1-star reviews that blast the book. I could be looking for a sequel to a series written by one of my favorite writers, and there will be 1-star reviews. And I let myself be persuaded not to buy the book.

It’s the same with restaurants while on business trips. I am not one to splurge during business trips. I am fine with a good food-court meal at the local mall to end a work day on the road. Every now and then, however, I need something decent. So I check the local restaurants on Google Maps and then check the Yelp reviews.

For every excellent review, there are some 1-stars that blast the chef, the food, the prices or the staff. Yelp can really ruin dinner choices. After half and hour of searching the map, hungry in a hotel room, reading Yelp reviews, I have ended up many times with no place to go to eat.

Reviews are great, but the 1-stars that invariably show up represent the Dark Side of Reviews.

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