Michelle Teheux: Better book addiction through technology

Michelle Teheux

I am addicted to reading.

Merely saying “I love to read” doesn’t quite cut it, any more than your typical drug addict could say he happens to enjoy smoking crack.

Addicts will do anything they can to get their hands on a fix, and I’m the same with books. There isn’t a room in my house that doesn’t have books in it, and the volumes that won’t fit in all the book cases are stacked up in corners or stuffed in boxes in the attic.

It doesn’t matter very much what kind of book it is. I will read it. I have fiction, non-fiction, poetry, classics, trashy crime novels and technical works all piled together and I devour them all. Once the only book at hand was a chemistry textbook. I read it.

When someone suggests I get rid of some of these books, I tend to comb through them and eventually produce one or two paperbacks that I am willing to part with, while the rest are again jammed somehow some way somewhere in the house.

My family’s best bet, when they hope to clear a shelf, is to bribe someone to pretend to be interested in some of my books. In that case, I enthusiastically loan out whatever they might possibly want to read, even though all involved know I’ll probably never see that book again. No matter; the next time I see that book in a used book store, I just replenish my supply of the missing tomes.

Clearly, this is a problem, but technology has provided a partial solution.

When my son returned to campus after Christmas break, he left behind a paperback, which, as I tend to do, I promptly picked up and began reading.

It turned out to be the first book in a series, so at my next trip to a bookstore I bought what I believed to be all the remaining books in the series, only to find I actually had Books 1, 2, and 4. I was missing the vital No. 3, and I knew I wouldn’t have time to make a trip to the bookstore anytime soon. I also didn’t want to wait until the book could be delivered.

So — technophobe though I am — I had no choice but to figure out how to download the free Kindle app to my iPod. This is an easy process for most but not for me. But once it was set up, I was reading Book 3, just so I could have some continuity before jumping into No. 4.

What I didn’t expect was that just one e-book experience would prove to cause an addiction every bit as bad as my addiction to printed books. It was a lot like deciding to try meth just one time.

Reading on the small screen wasn’t the problem I thought it would be. Plus, e-books don’t contribute to that tower of books at the end of the upstairs hallway that could kill the unwary. I have a selection of books in my purse at all times, and as long as there’s WiFi around, I can always buy another book, often for just a few bucks, with a couple of finger-taps.

I also can hide my addiction better now. One book or a thousand books, I’m still carrying just one innocent-looking little iPod.

The fun thing is that now I can buy a book and read it instantly at any time. The dangerous thing is that now I can buy a book and read it instantly at any time.

Recently, at around midnight, it occurred to me that a book I’ve wanted to read for around 20 years but could never locate just might be available as an ebook. In seconds, I found it was. A minute later, it was all downloaded into my hand. And hours later, I was still reading it, much to my sleepy regret the following day. I probably should not keep the iPod next to my bed at night any more for this reason.

But I probably will.

That’s how we addicts are.

Michelle Teheux may be reached at