Posted in Writing Life

How the Kobo Changed My Life

I am going to tell you first the facts and then the story, which surprised me and may surprise you, too.

Let’s start with something basic. The numbers. I’ve had my Kobo (first reviewed here) for a month now, and in that month I’ve read 8 books on it. These are:

Free From the Public Library
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
American Rust by Phillip Meyer
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

Free From Gutenberg
The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford
The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley
Lucy Gayheart by Willa Cather (Gutenberg Australia)

Purchased from Kobo
Molly Fox’s Birthday by Deirdre Madden

As far as book sales, this is good news for publishers, if I’m at all representative, because my intention in buying an ereader was just for the purpose of using it for library and out of print books. The purchase I did make, although at a lower price than for a printed book, was an extra, not an “instead of,” purchase. I may, in fact, get a paper copy at some point, as well, so that I can underline it, highlight it, make notes, and share it. (While it’s true that some people might not want to borrow an underlined copy, I want to own this one in particular so I can mark it up.)

It was a spontaneous purchase. Nothing was at the library for me, and I wanted to read something contemporary. So I looked over my reading list, picked one, paid for it and downloaded the book. It was night time. I was in my flannels. I moved from buying a book to reading in bed in a couple of minutes.

But this is all by way of introduction to the real story. I don’t know how to explain this to you, but the Kobo has revolutionized my reading. You see, when I was a young kid, reading books saved my life. But ever since, though I love books, reading has been a struggle.

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know that my early life was difficult. I don’t talk about it much, that isn’t my way. But given what I endured, it’s amazing that I have a life at all now, let alone a good life with a loving family of my own. Every step of the way has been a step I wasn’t sure I could take because those early lessons taught me that life was something to fear and anything I enjoyed could hold an unexpectedly nasty and horror filled surprise.

That included books. Sometime in middle childhood, I was taught that reading was a risky, punishable business. After that I loved books still, but reading became a slow and arduous process. I can skim an article faster than light. Yet when doing research, I’ve read as slowly as 10 pages an hour. That’s a lot of hours for a 500 page book. I compulsively re-read passages, sometimes because my mind compulsively wandered, other times because I felt compelled to make sure I got every word right.

And then I caved in to ereader hype and bought a Kobo, thinking it was really just a toy. I love electronic gadgets. If I wasn’t so practical and didn’t have a budget, I would gladly have an I-everything, or the equivalent in the PC world. So even while caving, I did my research and made a measured decision.

The Kobo has no bells and whistles. It’s black and white (or rather black and grey). It is simple and does what it does well.

What I didn’t anticipate was that the experience of reading on a Kobo is, for me, unlike reading a paper book–it’s better.

The Kobo is comfortable to hold, it’s light, the texture pleasant in my hands. But most importantly, it doesn’t look or feel like a book, but something newly invented and without prior reference. So the old part of my brain, the wily reptile on the lookout for threats and danger, is not falsely alerted, does not advise avoidance or careful repetition.

Let the snake with its wisdom rest easy, for there is no predator here. I’m just reading on a 21st century gadget. God looks down and nods. The snake looks up and hisses a friendly greeting.



Lilian is the author of Web of Angels, a novel about a mom with DID (multiple personalities). She's also the author of the historical novels, The River Midnight and The Singing Fire, about secrets, friendship and motherhood in 19th century Poland and London.

9 thoughts on “How the Kobo Changed My Life

  1. This is so interesting, and wonderful for you, of course. I do think our memories influence our reading experience, which is why there is a debate about whether people will use e-readers in the first place. Unless they have a very good reason not to, people will stick with what is familiar.
    I like my Kindle, and I’m glad you’re so thrilled with your Kobo.

  2. Thanks Beth and Michelle! I’m currently reading The Finkler Question, downloaded from the library, and I like it so much (so far) that I want my h to read it just so we can talk it over. I’ll either buy him a paper copy or get it from the library. (It’s a relief after my latest library fines, that ebooks never have fines.)

  3. Wow, that’s amazing! We never know, do we, until we try things – it’s a lesson not to harbour assumptions and prejudices. And I’m so happy for you too!

  4. Thanks Jean! It reminds me of an article I read by someone who was dyslexic, who found reading on an iphone to be revolutionary. When I checked on the post, I saw that it wasn’t actually all that long ago that I’d written it, and I even wondered if an iphone would function that way for me. But I don’t have one, don’t fancy reading on a tiny screen, and had completely forgot about it when I was considering buying an ereader.

  5. Wow, what a story! It’s wonderful that an ereader changes the experience of reading in such a positive way. I’m so happy for you!

    I was just thinking earlier today about how an ereader might make it easier for me to read long books (not that it’s terribly hard, but sometimes it feels a little stressful) because I don’t have the actual heavy weight of a long book in my hands and can’t flip through those hundreds of pages I have left.

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