Bookish Type Seeks Good Read(er)

Booked | Public access source

I've been looking around for a way to read. Books are beginning to rebel against my increasingly bad eyesight. Type, once so ready to recline into measured lines, isn't so accommodating anymore. I'm betrayed not so much by how small the letters seem, but by the unruly outlines of words.

Words in sentences have decided to be comical, substituting "partisan" for "passion" and "legally" for "loyalty." I have to read some newspaper headlines twice over, to sober up the meaning. "Chinese" turns into "chemise" a lot.

I don't have to tell avid readers what it feels like to have lines of text pass effortlessly into blocks of meaning and then into a voice in your head and ultimately into a fugue of identification, you and paragraphs. Well, that music is going as the shapeliness of a typeset line wriggles into burlesque. (Although, sometimes I have to laugh inappropriately.)

I'm looking for another way to read, starting with the Kindle product loaded on my Android phone. This may seem a backward step -- from book page to a 2-by-3.25-inch screen -- but the ability to enlarge type and the backlit contrast are compensations. I've read ten or twelve novels this way and perhaps as many collections of short stories.

I wonder what this might look like at the bars where I sit, staring for an hour into my cupped hands, chin and cheeks up-lighted by a pale glow, as if I were conjuring spells from a cheap crystal ball.

There are a lot better substitutes for the printed page than a smartphone. But that's the problem. A book's a book; you know what you're getting into. But the manufacturers of e-readers scatter models and accessories with the former abandon of a GM executive. Making a plain choice among the options is impossible. (I might add, as excuse, that I prefer white shirts, black trousers, and gin martinis.)

I also know that digital machines will always be another generation away from the intuitive and reasonable presence in my life that a toaster has. And I'm pretty sure nothing will ever replace a book for utility and convenience.

I'll probably buy an e-reader soon, the lexical equivalent of those motorized chairs so urgently advertised on television. And I will get used to it. But isn't it funny that the end result of advanced innovation is resignation?

D. J. Waldie, author and historian, writes about Los Angeles on KCET's SoCal Focus and 1st and Spring blogs.