Thursday, December 18, 2014

Fire up my love of reading

I’ve always been an avid reader, from the time when I was a tiny tot. Nothing beats the feeling of delving into the world of the written word, not the movie version of the book, not TV or online games. I can get lost in a story, my imagination all fired up. I can be absorbed in a good undercover expose in print, eager to know the outcome. I love an absorbing biography, learning new things along the way. I can be riveted by whodonits, reading through the night to find out who the real murderer is, or cry over a tearjerking romance. Even adventures with a beloved dog can leave me in stitches and tears at the same time.

In my college years in New York, books were aplenty in the libraries as well as bookstores like Barnes & Noble. I loved delving into tiny bookstores along Broadway, where the musty smell of print held all kinds of promise among the floor-to-ceiling stacks of books. Hardbacks could be had for as little as 99 cents, you just had to know where to look.

Back in Malaysia, because of the exchange rates, books became prohibitively expensive for me to buy, especially when I could go through two or three of them in one week. The libraries were full of old, scholarly tomes and woefully inadequate in supplying the latest bestsellers. I resorted to secondhand bookstores for a while, until high rentals and a lack of demand forced them to close.

Book rental shops were a boon for me, as I could rent a book for as long as a month and pay a fraction of what a book would cost to read it. I frequented neighbourhood places in Subang and Lucky Gardens for years, until they, too, became somewhat expensive. The Big Bad Wolf was a godsend, somehow managing to import books at really affordable prices. I really love their selection of classics and children’s books, and always get a warm, fuzzy feeling whenever I visit.

I had heard about Kindle for years, but it wasn’t until about a year and a half ago when the prices of books became prohibitively high for me, that I seriously went about finding out more about it. What I learnt then was that there was some problem about registering for Kindle in Malaysia, and the advice online was to get it somewhere else other than here in Malaysia, where the URL would present difficulties.

So when I made a trip to the U.S. last year, I bought a Kindle and registered for it while I was there using my own credit card. I decided on the Kindle Paperwhite because all I want to use it for is to read, not browse the internet or anything else. Its size is perfect, like a small paperback, and it’s light. The matte surface is perfect for reading, and I can control the font size and lighting. I just download the books I want and even have a subscription to the New Yorker magazine.

I can honestly say that the Kindle is one of the best purchases I have ever made. With any number of books I have downloaded in it, I always have enough reading material when I’m travelling without having to lug around a few heavy paperbacks. Its battery life also lasts ever so long and if I need to charge it, I just plug it into a laptop. It’s not quite the same as a real book, I know, and I do miss the feel, look and smell of the printed page. But my Kindle has become my faithful companion wherever I go and I can’t imagine life without it.

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