Falling back into old book habits

A recidivist, according to my Longman Dictionary, is a person who relapses, usually a reformed criminal who has fallen back into his or her evil ways of life. Being a recidivist in many ways myself — a once faithful exerciser who hasn’t been to the gym in a long time, a man who vows to stop visiting thrift shops every time he emerges from one with a couple of bags full of stuff — I was wondering if others showed a comparable character weakness, especially with regard to books.

Do you find yourself breaking your vow or New Year’s Resolution never to enter a bookstore again — or at least not until you’ve finished reading all the books you already own or cleared sufficient space on your shelves for new titles? Do you tell yourself: This year I’m going to pledge weekends to Serious Books rather than glossy best-sellers, then find yourself settling down on Sunday afternoon with the latest Nora Roberts or James Patterson? Do you see the path of bookish virtue yet find yourself choosing the one of vice? Please share your stories.

There is, however, another form of biblio-recidivism that interests me: Have any members of the Reading Room abandoned e-book readers after giving them a try for a few months? Has anyone, in other words, tasted the new technology and rejected it? If so, why? While I will doubtless try an e-reader eventually, I already own an iPod that sits on a shelf next to a digital camera and various other electronic gizmos I never seem to use. This isn’t meant as a critique of any of these gadgets, just a comment on the kind of mind and lifestyle I have. I do, for instance, rely mightily on this laptop computer and can’t picture myself going back to writing with a manual typewriter (though I do own three or four and love them all as objets d’art).

Anyway, friends, please share your experiences of “biblio-recidivism.” I’m particularly interested in instances where people haven’t taken to e-book readers, when they have chosen to stick solely with the older medium of printed books. If I recall correctly, in the 16th century the Japanese had guns but rejected them as ignoble and preferred to live and perish by the sword.

— Michael Dirda

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