Ebook Curmudgeonry

I should love ebooks. My home isn’t exactly spacious, so anything that takes up zero space should be pretty amazing, right?

Hell, I used to argue passionately that the medium didn’t matter, that the tactile sensation of turning pages was not what made a story a good experience. People who preferred physical books were just being nostalgic. When I did finally jump on the bandwagon, I was thrilled at the idea of having a huge library in my hands wherever I took my tablet.

Then I noticed that I kind of hate reading ebooks.

It was a realization that snuck up on me — I read some amazing books in that format, and the impact of the stories were not affected by swiping a screen instead of flipping pages.

But some stuff just sucked.

If I’m reading while tired, there’s a good chance that I will space out for several paragraphs, or even multiple pages, and want to flip back a bit just to make sure I didn’t gloss over something important. If I’m reading while alert, I might recall something that happened several chapters back and want to jump to it just to skim it again in case any details seem relevant to the section I’m reading. Fantasy novels will often have a map and a glossary that I want to reference.

Ebooks do a terrible job simulating flipping around. There’s no digital equivalent to sticking your finger in the current page and eyeballing the page you want to read. You have to mess with bookmarks and submenus and things that remind you that you’re using a tiny computer.

And then there are the formatting issues. Every now and then I run into an entire italicized paragraph when it’s clear that only one or two words were supposed to be italicized. Sometimes it’s boxes showing up instead of non-English characters. Pictures always seem to be weirdly aligned.

I also noticed that I tend to forget that I have ebooks, so they go unread. Physical books get in the way — they clutter my desk and fill my shelves, constantly demanding that I acknowledge them. I read them and pass them on.

Anyway, I’ve decided that it’s time to embrace my inner curmudgeon and admit that I prefer dead-tree versions of books.

Adventures in Mental Illness: Indecision

This scene has played out hundreds, possibly thousands, of times throughout my life. Between 2006 and 2013, however, it was especially frequent.

It’s been a long day, and I’m glad to take off my shoes and flop facedown on the bed for ten or fifteen minutes while I wait for my wife to finish making dinner. Today she took one look at my face and made the executive decision to delay food and let me sleep for an hour.

When I drag myself out of bed, I feel… not better, but less noisy. Instead of flooding my consciousness with detailed memories of all my failures, my brain has settled on two or three to play in a loop. After I eat, if I’m lucky, I’ll be focused on a single failure that will drive me to do something creative.

“Failure” is not entirely accurate because it implies that I tried to do something and wasn’t successful. The things that my brain likes to throw in my face are the times when I wanted to try something, but didn’t. Like when I was researching fiction magazines and found one that seemed like a perfect fit for something I’d written. I read their submission guidelines over and over. I revised my story a few times. Then, I never actually submitted it.

Tonight, I will write something.

Tomorrow night, however, I’ll be dwelling on five things while my food digests. I didn’t move out of state to play music with my friends. I defaulted to an easy degree. I didn’t maintain my friendships. I don’t practice my guitar enough. I never figured out how to work with watercolor pencils.

When that happens, I don’t act. I sit on the couch, marathoning old Power Rangers episodes, wishing someone else will tell me what to do because I can’t do it all. It’s too much. I suck. And now I’ve wasted another perfectly good evening.

Thankfully, this hasn’t happened to the same degree since I’ve been on medication. In fact, the experience is barely comparable. Now, when I find myself struggling to figure out what to do with my free time, it feels like I have a ton of opportunities to do cool new things. Guilt doesn’t enter the equation — I might note that my guitar skills are getting rusty, but I’m really excited about the progress I’m making with my drawing. My poor blog has been neglected, but this story idea is so fun to work on! I’ll get around to the other stuff eventually, sure, but I want to ride this wave as long as I can.