As he handed me my birthday gift last year, my son said, “Mom, before you open this I have to warn you that I’ve committed sacrilege.” He spoke the truth. Resting inside the wrappings was a Nook e-reader.
To get the full impact of this, you need to understand that when I say Bob and I are book people, it’s like saying the ocean is a tad damp. After a recent cleaning frenzy, we delivered three boxes and several large bags of books to the library for its annual fund-raiser. I have no idea where we must have put them because every shelf is still full.
At any rate, I thanked my son for the gift and set it next to my comfy chair. It sat there for months. Finally, curiosity got the better of me and I read one of the books my son had loaded onto the device. It didn’t fit in my hands the way a book does, so I found it uncomfortable to hold. It was also harder to follow characters and plot lines. I have a theory about this, but that’s another story for another day.
Then I discovered something I could love about my Nook. It let me download book previews. Read a good book review? Download the preview, read the first couple of chapters, and if it’s worth a read, go find the real book. It’s a great system. Then somewhere along the way I ended up downloading a few books by Neil Gaiman, one of my very favorite authors. I already have printed copies, but these were on sale, so I took the bait. And that’s how the trap was laid.
While packing for Graph Expo, I wanted to keep my backpack as light as possible, so I decided to go all 21st century and just take the Nook. Reality quickly set in, but once the trip had begun I was committed, so I made the best of it. (Point to consider: printed books don’t have to be switched off until the aircraft reaches 10,000 feet.)
We had a fairly long layover in Atlanta, so Bob and I staked out a place clear of most foot traffic and I stayed with the carry-on bags while he went off in search of lunch. I pulled out my Nook and settled down to continue the familiar story of “American Gods”. I have no idea why I looked up at the perfect moment, but I did. I raised my eyes just in time to see a slender, lanky Ichabod Crane of a man striding through the terminal in the smooth gait so familiar to frequent fliers—more than a walk, but certainly not a run or even a trot. I knew that angular face and the dark, curly, collar length hair instantly. He has stared back at me from countless dust covers and paperbacks.
I was on my feet in a heartbeat and half-way to the concourse (yes, I’d left the luggage unattended—quick, call TSA!) when I realized that what I clutched in my hand was not a book. Let me repeat that: it was not a book! I was holding a copy of “American Gods” as well as three other Neil Gaiman novels right there in my hand, but at that moment they were useless to me. As I watched the writer disappear into the crowd my heart sank. You can’t very well ask your favorite author to autograph pixels or even the piece of plastic that contains them.
Authors probably hate it when people chase them down in airports and ask for autographs. I mean, they have a plane to catch, maybe a tight connection. And I’m not generally like that either. In my travels, I’ve encountered a number of celebrities and I make a point of not intruding into their space. (Although I did appreciate the time Will Smith insisted that I go in front of him at the check-in counter.)
But this was different. Gaiman is seriously one of my heroes—and I don’t have many. It’s not likely that I’ll ever have that chance again. Just in case, though, from now on I’ll pack my copy of “American Gods” and leave the bloody Nook on the shelf.