A Writer’s Library–The Ebook Revolution

Because of the nature of what I do as a writer and researcher, namely, sit hunched before a computer screen for long stretches of the day (and evening), I’ve found myself plagued by neck and shoulder pain. To alleviate these faulty ergonomics, I recently acquired an iPad. It’s proven to be a remarkably liberating device, freeing me from the need to be always peering into a monitor in a stooped posture. I expect it to be quite useful as well for any writing I do on the run, particularly when I take my sons to their hockey games and practices. One of the first things I did after getting the iPad was load it up with a bunch of the free books, mostly classics, that are available through Amazon’s Kindle. Even some of the collections that aren’t free come at a staggeringly low price. In fact, bargain seems an understatement. The complete works of Sir Walter Scott, for example–a collection of novels and narrative poems that runs to dozens of volumes– can be bought for less than three dollars. Scott is one of my literary heroes, an author who used to be mentioned in the same breath with Shakespeare and who is, I think, under-appreciated as a major influence on JRR Tolkien. In the end, you can load up your iPad or computer with a library that in the past would physically have occupied a room or two at least, if not a whole building. Besides Sir Walter Scott, there’s one other gem that I was thrilled to load onto my iPad. I’m talking about the Carmina Gadelica. The title is in Latin and means “Gaelic Poems”. The Carmina Gadelica are in fact a collection of poems and prayers compiled and translated by folklorist Alexander Carmichael in the Gaelic-speaking outposts of Scotland at the turn of the 19th century. Arrestingly sub-titled Hymns and Incantations, they’re a brilliant piece of work, one of the rare jewels of world literature, full of a primeval incandescent beauty that captures the wonders and rhythms of pre-industrial civilization. These unique poems are truly a stunning evocation of a world we have lost, of a life lived in intimate proximity to the cycles of nature. The Carmina were slightly more expensive, relatively speaking, than the Sir Walter Scott, but still a bargain of bargains. They’re offered as an attractively formatted two volume set on Kindle for a mere $2.99 (U.S.) apiece and are now part of my digital library. It amazes me to think that years ago, before the advent of the internet, I was forced to search high and low through ponderous snail mail queries before I managed to locate a second hand set of this remarkable classic. So, for all its pitfalls, the digital revolution offers some extraordinary blessings. As a writer, it fills me with amazement and no small measure of gratitude.