This article is sort of an introduction to our new “Books in Review” section.


To Read or Not To Read?

Books in the Electronic Age

By Pamela Mortimer



I am a book junkie. If I don’t have a book nearby, I get the shakes. I used to collect everything – from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to medieval history to the Craft to horror novels to Shakespeare…and, well, you get the picture. Last time I moved, one of the friends who had carried countless heavy boxes down flights of stairs to my front door said with a snarl, “You’d better have read every single one of these books – twice!” When my new house began to overflow with hardbacks, paperbacks, classics, and reference books, I knew I had to let some of them go. Considering that I have better relationships with books than with most people (it didn’t sound quite so sad until I typed it), I had a hard time parting with them. Some of my childhood favorites were probably the most difficult to let go, especially the books on Winnie the Pooh and Peanuts. (I kept the Dr. Seuss!)  Growing up, my nieces never complained about all of the books they received for birthdays and holidays but probably secretly wished for CDs or cash. I always told them that when they grew up and weren’t illiterate, they would thank me. I’m still waiting.


I’ve heard many people say, “I don’t read”. The first time someone said that to me, I was completely taken aback. What??? Who doesn’t read? I maintain the thought that people who can read and don’t are missing the boat. Moreover, I believe that even the most devout non-reader simply hasn’t found the right books. If the right book came along, the non-reader’s entire world would change. It may be that too many people associate reading with Dick and Jane, algebra word problems or that crabby teacher in the seventh grade who made them read such godawful boring stuff that even the writers must have had a hard time staying awake. My advice to those wannabe readers, who for some reason or another don’t pick up books, is this: Try audio books.


As a true bookworm, it took a little while to get used to listening to audio books. Several people told me that it wasn’t the same as actually reading, that it was cheating. Using CliffsNotes is cheating. Audio books are a way to “read” the latest bestseller while commuting, working out, or just relaxing after a hard day at the office. You get the same information as you would by actually picking up the book and flipping the pages one by one. In addition, you get to hear the story in a different way than it might sound in your head. Most audio books are read either by the author or a celebrity, adding an extra element of entertainment.


There’s a different mentality that goes along with switching over from traditional print media. It feels weird to be talking with friends and say, “I listened to the new book by…” or even “I just read…” when technically, you didn’t. David Sedaris, NPR humorist and bestselling author of “Me Talk Pretty One Day”, had the same struggle. Being of the high minded opinion that books are for readers and audio is for cheaters (or dolts), Sedaris was lured to the dark side while preparing for a trip to France. While walking the streets of New York, and then Paris, he came to the startling conclusion that audio books are a good thing. Whether you’re learning French, listening to a sports legend’s bio or diving headfirst into the latest psychological thriller, audio books are one more way to entertain your brain. I finally felt vindicated when I was in my local public library checking out audio books (for free) and discovered that the Executive Director also listens to them. If she does it, it must be okay.


I know that personally, I have “read” many more books this way than I would have if they were in their original printed form. I’ve also ventured into genres that I may not have otherwise. Since I gave into the electronic version of the printed word, I’ve had to keep a running list so that I don’t pick up the same book twice. (I usually realize it about half way through.) I still love the feel of a “real” book and read whenever I get the chance. On those occasions when I’m just too tired to focus on the pages, audio is the way for me.