When I was eight or nine, back in the 1960’s, I tried to invent an e-reader.
The one I envisioned was a simple back-lit screen that would allow a reader to view a page on a roll of film, scrolling along to read the book. Nothing fancy, but I was intrigued by the idea. Is it any wonder that I embraced the new technology whole-heartedly when it became reality?
My idea came about like this. My father had a workshop in our garage, and he put together a little workbench for me, at an appropriate height, with smaller versions of real hand tools and lots of wood scraps and other junk that he thought I would like. I spent a large amount of time out there, trying to invent things that I had the imagination, but not the skill, to create. Among the junk Dad had given me were several open-topped metal boxes, about eight inches on a side and four inches deep. (Since Dad was an electrician, I imagine they were some sort of circuit boxes, but they were the source of many hours of entertainment for me and my imagination.)
Even back then I was a voracious reader. Something about the metal box spoke to me, and I could just see a spool of book mounted on the box, scrolled along as one read. And I knew, to my dismay, that I did not have to ability to make what I imagined.
I told my mother what I wished I could make, and she laughed a bit – who would want to buy a book that you had to use something else to read? I still thought it was a good idea.
Perhaps a decade later, I read one of James H. Schmitz’s Telzey Amberdon stories, and in it, I found my reader. Telzey had entire law library on book spools, which she read on her viewer. A whole library in her travel bag! Now that was what I was talking about! But it still did not exist in the real world.
I had to wait another few decades for that.
I felt a very personal sense of triumph when e-readers became available. Two years ago, I got mine. It did not take me long to start stuffing it with books. My only regret is that I don’t have a larger book budget!
Don’t get me wrong. I still enjoy my traditional books, and read quite a few, especially from the public library. My house is still filled with books. (I think my family gave me the e-reader to cut down on at least some of the stacks of books in the house.) But now I can carry my library, or at least a portion of it, with me in my purse.
It’s everything I imagined at the age of nine, and more. Never mind that I didn’t end up inventing the thing personally. I still have a personal sense of triumph at the success of e-readers – a dream of mine come true.