Reading is a solitary pursuit

Reading is generally a solitary pursuit, but there are exceptions. I started to write that people who love to read generally learned by being read to as a child. I realized that the other way of learning to love reading is by using books as a way of retreating from the world. Losing yourself in books can become a very safe haven for a child who is lonely, bullied, or just plain different in some way. A lot of us who read science fiction and fantasy probably came to it that way.

Audiobooks are not necessarily a solitary experience. Anyone within earshot can listen. This is particularly true on long car trips. But not everyone enjoys listening to a book. I can’t drive long distance without one, and I prefer not to drive anywhere familiar without, not even for fifteen minutes. Yes, there’s radio. NPR talk is good. Classical music puts me to sleep. I love Classic Rock, but the thing about Classic Rock is that they’re not making any more of it, and I already own what I like. I’d rather have someone tell me a story, and there we are, back to audiobooks.

But reading a book is something one generally does alone.  There are some notable exceptions. For example, neither of us is allowed to read Terry Pratchett in bed.  Sir Terry is simply too laugh-out-loud funny. Laughing out loud is detrimental to the good night’s sleep of the party on the other side of the bed. Even a suppressed laugh, if there are enough of them, is problematic at 2 or 3 am.

Reading on an iPad in the wee hours has some advantages. It provides its own light.  This is much better than a bedside lamp.  This is good. But last night, one of the unintended consequences of sharing ebooks turned up.

As the collection has been weeded, we have sold as many books as possible to Powell’s Books in Oregon. This has built us a nice credit balance, which can be used online at Google Books. This is pretty terrific. Since Galen and I “married” our book collections a long time ago, we fully intended to share the credit balance, without worrying about whose books generated how much of it. But the whole balance happened to be tied to his Gmail account. So, the Google Books account also got tied to his Gmail account, which is, of course, not shared.

Back in the olden days of print books only, sharing a credit account like this would be easy. We’d each order books until it was gone. A book is a book. Some we would both read, like the Hunger Games, or Native Star by M.K. Hobson, and some only one of us would read. But it wouldn’t matter.  Now it matters.  The credit account can only be tied to one Google identity at a time. So we’re going to have to switch it back and forth to use it. It’s a nuisance that doesn’t exist with “dead tree” books.  And yes, we will pass the iPads back and forth. And we’ll set up a new account at Powell’s for the next batch of books we sell.

What amazes me most is that the “olden days” when we set this account up are less than three years ago.

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2 thoughts on “Reading is a solitary pursuit

  1. Interesting. So many things to workout. My iPad is my primary reading medium now and I’ve been trying to get DRM free downloaded books as much as possible. I then share them through Dropbox with my wife. We rarely read the same book at the same time so it’s functionally the same as passing it back and forth (except I don’t have to cringe with how she bends the spines). In the end I think a DRM free model where snooks are too cheap to bother pirating (as Apple and Amazon have done with music) is a better approach than making us fight with tying books to accounts on devices.

  2. I’m with you on the spine bending being cringe-worthy. When it’s not my book, I keep it to myself, but, oh yeah. There are some books that we’ve passed still warm (Harry Potter, Terry Pratchett, Dresden Files), but it usually works out.
    We’d both love to not deal with the finicky bits like the tied account. That was a nasty surprise at stupid o’clock in the morning, even for a couple of insomniacs. We are one economic unit, even Uncle Sam says so. Buying one copy of an ebook is reasonable, but buying two copies of an ebook is just not gonna happen.
    Where are you getting DRM free books? More sources is always good.

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