In the Blink of a Book

With my second cataract operation behind me, I’m amazed at how much my sight has improved (and I’m also adjusting to my new cyborg self, now that I host a plastic lens in each eye). For a while, though, I found it difficult to read, with most texts looking like this

unless I closed one eye. I found this a bit of a trial, until I realized that I could easily super-size the fonts on my iBook and Kindle apps so that reading once again became a breeze. Large print editions, on demand!

Though the e-book revolution is often touted as the domain of the young, who have grown up at ease with reading from a screen, my recent experience makes me think that the e-book will soon become a haven for the older reader, a Boomer Book Bonanza. As our eyes (and the rest of us) slowly slip into that good night, personalized, adjustable font size will ensure that reading remains a pleasurable obsession.

And yet. Gazing on my shelves of hardcover and paperback books, I can recall so many specific moments when I read a particular novel or story collection, and those copies have aged with me, some warped from a dunk in the Yukon River or scented with African dust, as I mentioned in my previous post. A print book absorbs the warmth of a hand, might be dappled with coffee stains, has a wrinkled spine—the world works upon a print book, as it works upon us.

And yet. I can morph an e-book’s format to my need, I carry the equivalent of over thirty books without strain, and I can download a necessary book on the instant.

I’m reminded of the first week or so after that first cataract operation, when if I closed one eye I’d have far-sighted vision, and if I closed the other eye, near-sighted vision. With both eyes open, the world turned fuzzy. My book allegiances are fuzzy now, too: I appreciate a print book’s solid self and an e-book’s digital adaptability. I blink back and forth, wishing in vain for resolution.

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