Kobo eReader: Classic Novels For the Masses

As an English teacher, I am one of the people in society who is supposed to read books and promote reading. I am also one of the citizens of higher learning who gets asked questions by random people about what are good books to read; I am then met with the questioner’s barrage of books that I should immediately read. The problem is time. I teach full-time, photograph part-time, travel in between those times, take care of my dogs and nurture my private life – when am I supposed to read the dime store novel recommended to me by an almost complete stranger? I seldom can find the time or energy to read novels bought for me by those who know me best. I must have ten novels sent from Dr. Tim Conley that are in various stages of almost read. My rule is three people I know need to recommend any novel I am going to read, otherwise I stick to trying to read as many of the “great books” from the Canon that I can.

My reading habits are infuriating for those closest to me. V. reads all of the time. My friends who teach university are all killer readers who read things in their sleep. Me…I am the camel of literature: I read deep, but seldom. However, I am on the transit system for two hours a day for the three months of winter when the Monster sits in the garage. During December I was stuck with reading the useless, free newspapers that only tell me my horoscope and what Angelina is doing. What if I could read real literature instead?

Over the day I decided that it was time for me to venture into the non-paper world of eReaders. No, I am not forsaking books. I have a beautiful collection of Folio Society volumes on Italian vertical steel shelves, and would never dream of leaving my library to reside only in digital form – I have read 1984 and Farenheit 451, and know the value of books that cannot be edited to satisfy the weak-stomached. The recent fiasco of idiots editing Huck Finn to delete the word nigger is proof of why we should also own copies of books our governments or Heather Reisman might choose to “edit” for us. When Huck is not good enough and “Money For Nothing” is banned from Canadian Radio, then intelligent people need to keep their libraries safe. Literal extremists need to read more books so that they can understand why context is critical to understand what needs to be banned as hate literature versus what raises awareness to promote positive change of old stereotypes.

The plan is to take the Kobo with me everywhere and see how many more novels I can squeeze in on the downtime. The Kobo came pre-loaded with 100 classic novels for free and I uploaded other free canonical texts from The Bible to Aristotle’s Ethics. I then proceeded to load Wallace’s Infinite Jest; a novel that is just too large for carrying anywhere, but that I want to read. On the way home from Chapters, I was able to consume 30% of Thoreau’s On Civil Disobedience essay, and figure that it can be finished tomorrow.

So far the form factor, clarity, and interface seem ideal for limbo reading – planes, trains and buses. I am excited about the prospect of just being able to peruse whatever classic text I want to try, keep my page when I am done, and move from one to the next based on my mood and interest. It is an experiment using new technologies to access ancient literatures. It should be noted that most of the books being read on eReaders do seem like trash novels involving cowboys without shirts on the cover.

The two photographs featured in this blog entry came from tonight’s scanning of Cuba negatives found on the latest rolls. La Luz was a magically painted restaurant in Old Havana. We went to see if we wanted to eat there, but the menu seemed less inviting that the fluorescent lighting and teal walls. The El Floridita sign is still pulling the tourists in to drink where Papa used to. We never made it. When rum was flowing in the streets for cheap, I saw no reason to pay $14 a drink for tourist trap privileges – Hemingway would never have paid that kind of money.

Final thought…imagine if the next mash-up literature experiment involved Anne Geddes and Jonathan Swifts “A Modest Proposal”. What would that calendar look like?

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