How I Lost Control of My Ereading

This is a guest post from Justina Ireland. Justina enjoys dark chocolate, dark humor, and is not too proud to admit that she’s still afraid of the dark. She lives with her husband, kid, and dog in Pennsylvania. She is the author of Vengeance Bound and Promise of Shadows, both currently available from Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. Her essay “Me, Some Random Guy, and the Army of Darkness” is in the forthcoming The V-Word, an anthology of personal essays by women about having sex for the first time, published by Beyond Words (S&S). You can find Justina on twitter as @tehawesomersace or visit her website justinaireland.com.

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I was an early adopter of the ereader. The idea of a limitless library in my purse was awesome. I remember going to the library as a kid and walking up to the circulation desk with an armful of books, only to be told that I could only check out ten. Ten?!? Ten was never going to be enough to last me until my next visit.

So the idea of ALL the books with me at all times was a thrilling one, similar to the way some people feel when they hold a gun. Sure, I wasn’t going to kill a man with my ereader, it was kind of pricey. But I could download a book and learn how to kill a man, so it was almost as good.

Plus, with an ereader I never had to worry about awkward book interactions. I read what I wanted where I wanted! No one was going to side-eye my Scottish vampire erotica in the waiting room. For all they knew I was flushed because it was a bit warm, not because I reading a particularly inventive scene featuring a handsome footman and a lusty lady of the manor.

All the books I wanted whenever I wanted wherever I wanted.  It was a heady time.

Alas, I should’ve remembered Ben Parker’s warning to young Peter: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Because my ereader was my single greatest downfall.

Having all of that content so easily available has made me a terrible and thoughtless reader.

It started with the books I’d buy. Discounted ebooks are the Jello shots of the book world. No one goes to the bar thinking “I’m going to get hammered on raspberry Jello spiked with bottom shelf vodka!” Similarly, no one goes to their favorite etailer thinking “I’m going to get this book I’ve never heard of with bad cover art and a recommendation from the Toledo Association of Cat Fanciers.” But at $1.99, everything looks appealing. 

And so I bought things I’d never normally pick up. Slews of first books in a series, anything cleverly named The Fill in the Blank’s Daughter, vegetarian cookbooks, even though my favorite vegetable happens to be steak. I bought it all.

Because I could.

But what to do with such a magnificent bounty of the written word? Well, read it. Only, most of the books I’d bought weren’t things that would hold my interest. With limits in both space and money I’d been choosy about my book purchases. At a twenty dollar price tag I was a careful consumer, picking up stories, sampling the first chapter, trying on the writing to see if the phrases came together in an appealing way. But at $1.99 I was mad with power, buying first and sampling later. So when I finally did get around to reading my purchase I ended up quitting the book early on, putting it aside because of bad writing or terrible characterization or just a simple lack of interest.

When I did find that diamond in the rough, that rare discounted ebook that was just freaking amazing, I’d read it twice as fast as a paper book. Somehow, pushing the next page button was an addiction, a finger twitch that my eyes rushed to keep up with. And finding that gem of a story made me anxious to see what else was out there, so that I’d buy an author’s entire back catalog, especially if it was also $1.99.

I was an ebook junkie. I told myself I could quit at any time, but there I’d be, back at the etailer, trolling for titles I didn’t have, like an ebook was some unusual Pokémon. I had to have them all.

After about a year of this the madness, I had to stop. I put my ereader away and used my book money for buying hardcovers and trade paperbacks. When the announcement for some fantastic $1.99 ebook came across Twitter I’d restrain myself, only purchasing the book if it had actually been on my list. For obscure titles I read the sample first and tried to evaluate if I would actually read the book. Usually the answer was a no, so I’d carefully click the buy window shut before I could talk myself into purchasing it.

I’d like to say I’m better now, that my to read pile is smaller and that there aren’t seven hundred books sitting on my ereader right now. But that is a lie. The truth is, there are still good days and bad days. I still buy more meh books than amazing books. I still have more books than I could ever hope to read in four lifetimes, and I’m still buying more every day.

But I also buy physical books, only reading on my ereader once or twice a month.  So I think I’m at least doing a little better.

Maybe.

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