Where Are the Page Numbers?

My books, including the ones that are dressed like peacocks. And yes, that is a wine glass on the top shelf.
My books, including the ones that are dressed like peacocks. And yes, that is a wine glass on the top shelf.

I loathe my Kindle.

I do, I really do.

I purchased a Kindle Fire last spring, after dragging my feet, objecting to the notion of reading books on a screen but was finally convinced to explore what I considered the dark side of book formatting merely for ease of reading while traveling. Also, my ribs were broken and I normally lug around 3-4 books on a trip and I knew my body couldn’t bear the weight as I traveled from Montana to New Hampshire to watch Cole compete in the National Championships. I figured that it’d be a lighter option considering my invalid state. Now, I’m regretting the purchase.

Cole teased and teased me when I brought home the Kindle, and it took me a good while to figure out how to operate the damn thing and I’m still learning about its features. What I thought was a good idea for traveling–fully knowing that I’d never, never take up reading solely on a blinking screen, but instead, has become a total pain in the ass. And an item that rarely sees use; in fact when we honeymooned in Europe, it stayed at home.

I ask, where are the page numbers?

It wasn’t until we boarded the plane for Boston that I discovered the Kindle’s shortcomings. I was lost when I sat down on the airplane to read my first “book”  (WHICH: another pitfall of the e-book–there are periods of time on the airplane when all electronic devices have to be turned off. Thankfully I had a stack of magazines to ease the pain while I waited and waited for the electronic use approval message so I could begin to read. Cole laughed and laughed as he thumbed through the pages of his real book) and learned that there aren’t any page numbers. This alarmed me. Instead of page numbers there’s the percent of progress. When I see the percentage sign I think of checkbooks and stats and my stomach churns. Page numbers I get, I understand them. I can’t grasp how I’d ever remember that I’d achieved 33% of the Hunger Games. I like actually seeing my page number progress and that giddy excitement, especially if the book is terrible or boring, knowing the end is in sight in ten or twenty pages. I like knowing that a book is 287 pages long.  Well, Mr. Kindle you fancy-dancy machine, you deprived me of that pleasure.

The irritations continued and while scores and scores of people boast and rave about the Kindle, I wonder if I’m only poor soul out there who fails to grasp how the Kindle actually works. Like, how to turn the page? A mere flick of my index finger or when the pad slips from my grip in bed, and the pages begin to scroll and roll and then I have no idea where I was in the book. Damn you Kindle for making me feel lost in, what is to me, the most essential part of my existence: reading. I know how to turn pages, but this finger sliding motion, leaving greasy fingerprints all over the screen is less than desirable. And oh, the feel. The feel of book pages from the slick, almost biblical pages to  thick, ruff edged pages, the sensation of turning page after page is most delightful. I do no connect well with the screen. And sometimes I’ve been a bit too forceful with my Kindle page-flicking-motion and I leap thousands of percentage points into the book, not remembering if I was at 21% or 37% or 111%. Seriously, who thought that was a good way to structure an e-book? Political pundits?

Also what irked me (what I intended to be as an ode to good old fashioned books with real pages had now turned into a rant probably better aimed at Amazon’s customer service department but I write what comes to me, so here we are. And you know where I’m typing this from? A library! A place that houses books. Hundreds of books stacked on shelves withcracked spines, musty pages and, wait for it…PAGE NUMBERS) is how the screen can shift with just the subtlest of motion, like the rumble from a fart or a readjustment of my elbow to find my glass of wine on the nightstand. Before my very eyes, which are slightly twitching from all the time I spend in front of  computer, phone and now book screens, the story goes from vertical to horizontal and back and forth, back and forth. When this first happened I wondered if I’d drank too much wine but no, this screen shifts its orientation and when I tried to correct it, it froze. Without the aid of a control-alt-delete, I was at the mercy of my Kindle, and as I reflect back, the Kindle might have been drunk (t0o).  Which totally explains the whole screen shifting its layout and its fast forwarding through pages. I’ve figured it out, my Kindle is a total drunk.

My real books–the ones that are not powered by an off/on switch or need a plug to recharge them (not a fun discovery when you’re traveling and the charger is left at home. To the nearest bookstore, ASAP, and let’s hope they have English titles because I can’t read German!) are decorated like peacocks. Let me explain: the majority of my reading is for my graduate program and my own writerly interests so I mark pages with sticky tabs and underline key sentences. You can’t do this on the Kindle–I know there’s some highlight function, but it doesn’t make sense to me. I like how my real books sport colorful neon feathers from the bookends, and I like rereading a book from my past to see what passages I marked and why. In the digital world, this is lost. I connect with my books, and no amount of touch screens buttons can replace that feeling of underlining a sentence in pencil or ripping apart a stack of Post-It Notes and marking its wit and wisdom.

Cole and I have thousands of books. I actually don’t know how many books we own–many of Cole’s are still stored in boxes in the basement because we’ve run out of space on the bookcases. I like showing off my books. I like seeing the titles when I walk into my office and sit down to write. I like leaning back in my chair and grabbing a Pam Houston or a Richard Russo book for guidance. Jim Harrison is like an old friend when I glance at his titles along the shelf.  I like combing through the dictionary or style guide when I need it. My security blanket are books, not poorly lit screens passing for a book.

I’ll always be a book gal, and meanwhile my Kindle will collect dust, buried on my nightstand under paperbacks, magazines and newspapers. Buried under items that don’t need a battery and that most certainly come equipped with page numbers.

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2 thoughts on “Where Are the Page Numbers?

  1. I may be a dinosaur, but give me a real book any day! I love the smell of a new book, the smell of the library, the sound and feel of a turning page. the weight of a meaty tome in my hand. I hope the new generation realizes the screen has its drawbacks and the pendulum swings back . . .

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