I read a lot.
It's a funny thing, but somehow, in an age when bookstores are going bankrupt and publishers are holding out on offering writing contracts like a fat kid holds out on sharing his Oreos, I am suddenly finding it easier than ever before to gain access to books. It has a lot to do with the fact that the definition of what a book actually is has started to shift.
You know what I think is the most surprising technological advancement of the past 30 years? If you said the iPhone or iPad ... you're pretty close, actually. I was going to say "eReaders," but it all amounts to the same thing, doesn't it?
Four years ago I carried a paperback book in my shoulder bag so I could read whenever I had the chance. This allowed me to chew through maybe five or six books per month if I was on a roll. I probably averaged three on most months, though. And once I was done with a book, I'd have to wait until I had a chance to drop by the book store to pick up another.
About two years ago, though, my wife gave me a Kindle 2 for my birthday. It. Was. On.
I was still slipping a book into my bag, but now it was a sleek and slim volume that allowed me to read a book to its end, then hop on and buy a second book that I could start right away. And I could keep a virtual library of these books at the ready.
Then, about a year ago or so ago the first smartphone eReader apps started popping up. It. Was. On. Part 2.
The only way I can truly describe the impact of this advancement is by saying "Holy crap." Seriously, it's that big. It's like seeing the Death Star for the first time and suddenly realizing it isn't a small moon. It's like discovering that your wardrobe leads to Narnia. It's like going to a family reunion and being introduced to Uncle Bill Gates.
Now I not only had access to a virtual Alexandria of books, I could read them anywhere, any time.
I am of that certain temperament of fella that absolutely MUST have his iPhone on him at all times. Want to see a major freak out? Run my battery down sometime. Shit goes wrong.
Quirky part is, I rarely use my iPhone as an actual phone. I'd say that phone usage accounts for maybe .5% of total use. The rest of the time, it's a texting, web surfing, book displaying, audiobook playing machine. It should be called the iTextSurfReadListenThingy. Steve Jobs take note.
Thanks to my Kindle, and then my iTextSurfReadListenThingy, I went from reading 3-5 books per month to 5-10, and then about 10-15. I now have greater opportunity to read than my attention span can allot for. Keen.
Notice, I count audiobooks in my final figures. If you don't [or more importantly, if you sneer and look down your nose at the mere mention of audiobooks] I encourage you to look up the definition of "read." Here, let me Google that for you:
I submit for your consideration: If one can read with one's fingers then one can certainly read with one's ears. I'll let you know if I figure out a way for someone to read with one's nose.
So what do I get out of all of this reading? I like to think I primarily get a bigger, bulgier brain. But in addition to increased brain girth, I also get the bonus of a sense of accomplishment, a sense of fulfillment, and a sense of how to use language and story to motivate and inspire. Handy, if you happen to be a writer. Equally as handy if you want to be a leader in an industry, or impress smart chicks at parties.
As the landscape of reading changes, I'm glad to see new paths opening up. It's telling, I think, that as new technology starts to crawl out of the primordial ooze and evolve from its single-cell origins, books are still a vital and iconic part of our advancement. Gutenberg changed the world with his printing press, and centuries later we're still using books as stepping stones into the future.