Do We Have Too Many Choices?

by Lori, @lorisizemore on 06.30.2011

in reading

Image courtesy stock.xchng

I grew up, and still live, in a small town.  Not small town like less than 5000.  Small town like… 265 people live in my town.  Not that it’s much of a town.  I have to drive 5-10 miles to the nearest 7-11.  Another 40 to Wal-Mart or McDonald’s. It’s 55 miles to the nearest book store–a chain.  An indie bookstore? That would be 91 miles away.  Sure, we have a library.  Only barbarians don’t have libraries.  But… if I had to guess, I’d say we might have 500-1000 books.  Total.

So, I think you feel me now.  Growing up and as an adult, I read whatever I could get my hands on.  I couldn’t afford to be picky.  Later, I discovered Amazon (I’m sorry indie stores!) and Booksfree and Paperback Swap.  Still, there was time and effort and hard-earned money involved in all of those ventures.  Don’t get me wrong.  It was worth it.  I wouldn’t trade the pleasure and escape I’ve gotten from reading for anything.

When I got my Kindle for Christmas–that all changed.  It was no longer a matter of driving an hour or more to buy a book (and you know, I didn’t just buy any book–I wanted my money’s worth).  I could browse whenever I wanted for a book, buy it, and be reading it in less than a minute.

Oh, sure, that’s awesome, you say.  But think about it for a minute.  Reading books was something I worked for.  I planned trips to the Book Exchange or the mall for days.  Called around to make sure they had the book I was looking for or saved up to buy several because it wasn’t a convenient trip to make.  Even with Amazon, I took my time, finding enough books to earn free shipping ($25) and, believe me, I got really good at getting the right books to total just over that amount.  And then there was packaging and shipping time.  I worked for the privilege of reading.

To suddenly be able to read anything I wanted any time I wanted, it was like being given the keys to Eden.  It was my happy place, that’s for sure.

For a while, I read lots of books I never would’ve tried before.  I’d send a sample and if I was hooked by the end, I bought it.  I combed through the free books trying to find one that might interest me.  Then I found sites like Kindle Obsessed, with reviews and recommended free titles, and Smart Bitches Trashy Books and Dear Author, who have high standards in their reviews.

It became so easy.  So, so easy.  I’d read the review, and if it sounded awesome, I’d download the free ones and sample the not-so-free ones.  Except now?  I have 42 books in my T0-Be-Read collection and 42 samples in my Fiction Samples collection.  84 books, at my fingertips, I feel confident I’ll really enjoy.  I’m overwhelmed by my stellar, easily accessible choices.

I know, I know.  It’s a poor-little-rich (in books)-girl whine.  Shameful, really.  I’m very fortunate to have access to so many books.  Even as hard as it was in the years pre-Kindle, when I had to work for my fictional fun, I was still luckier than many.

In recognition of that and to share what reading has meant to me, I’ve made a donation to The Lisa Libraries, which:

…donates new children’s books and small libraries to organizations that work with kids in poor and under-served areas.

I hope you’ll think about making a donation or sending new children’s/YA books their way as well.  And I hope everyone is cursed with so many ways and opportunities to read.

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