How Do I Read?

How do I read?

With my eyes! *laugh*  

And mostly, with understanding. For that I am grateful.

People so often ask me this question but I know that they are merely curious as to how I manage to turn the pages. Sadly, I can no longer hold a real book in my hands and turn the pages with my fingers.

I have been an avid reader and a lover of books all my life. There was a time when there was always a book (or many) at my bedside. I was never able to get into bed and just go to sleep without reading a few chapters of a good book. Maybe it was a brief escape from reality? I don’t know. But, it was my way of relaxing or winding down at the end of a busy day, before drifting off to sleep. Unless, of course, I had great sex with my husband and then floated off to dreamland in his arms. Bliss!

So, shouldn’t you be more concerned about how I go to sleep these days? No books. No husband. Oh crap! *laugh*

Just days before my accident, I was lying on the beach reading a John Grisham novel. Those were such happy, carefree days. What could be better than a holiday of sun, sea and love combined with the thrilling plot of a good book? I remember baking in the hot sun, with the sea-sand between my toes, the sound of the crashing waves competing with Chad’s squeals of delight as he played with his dad in the water, and me poised between the heartwarming scene before me and the drama of the courtroom between the pages of the book. Heaven.

I didn’t read the night before the accident. I didn’t have sex either. *sigh*

We were planning an early rise to get on the long road home so we decided to get as much sleep as possible after putting Chad down for the night. Oh, how I wish I could go back…

While I was in the spinal unit for rehabilitation, I expressed my wish to finish my book. I cried as they took the book out of my bag and I noticed that it still had sea-sand stuck between the pages. 

The occupational therapist kindly designed a harness, which was fastened around my head, to hold a long, thin, wooden stick in place, attaching it to my chin. The stick had a little piece of rubber on the end. After hours of practice I was able to turn the page of a book which had been photocopied, by moving my head.

But this monstrosity on my head made me feel even more like an alien. It seriously interfered with my self-image as a woman. I felt ugly. I felt like a freak. I didn’t want anybody to see me with it on.

So as a result, I stopped using it and I stopped reading. I never finished my book.

I vowed that I would never wear any kind of weird, abnormal thing on my head, ever again.

For a long time, the only books I read were the ones that Chad used to plonk in my lap for me to read to him. Thank God I knew the story of The Three Little Pigs by heart because most of the time he held the book clumsily, making it difficult for me to read the words as he struggled to turn the pages. In those long, difficult days I learned to become a good storyteller despite Chad bringing the same books over and over again. Nonetheless, I treasure those precious moments I spent with my son.

A few years later the community raised the money to buy an expensive electronic page-turner for me which I was able to operate using my chin. It was wonderful. It made a huge difference to my life.

But, it was not without frustrations. It only accommodated particular sizes and thickness of books. The pages had to be a certain texture and, even then, the pages often got stuck or turned a few at a time. My care assistants often struggled to help me sort out the glitches with the device as they mostly had no understanding of the technicalities involved. Since it was imported, nobody here had the expertise to repair or service it.

But, I will never forget the overwhelming joy I experienced when I started reading my first book on that machine.

Today, I buy e-books which I download off the Internet straight onto my laptop. I’m so thankful for the rapid advancements in technology which have the power to change my life.  

Once again I have the delight of being able to read in bed if the laptop is placed on my over-bed table at the right angle. But, it will never be the same.

I miss the feel, and the smell, of a book. I miss the ache in my arms, as I lie in bed, reading a big-fat-juicy novel, just before drifting off to sleep. But, I am fortunate that I can still read. I have good eyes and an inquiring, intelligent mind. For that I am grateful.

Now all that remains is for me to find the courage, to finally finish reading that book.

Next time… How Do I Write?

About Tracy Todd

Although I need a wheelchair to get around, it is most certainly NOT what defines my essence as a woman. I am also a mother, teacher, wannabe writer and an inspirational speaker with a positive outlook on life.
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27 Responses to How Do I Read?

  1. Bill Watson says:

    Just posted this to get the follow up comments

  2. Bill Watson says:

    Tracy – I don’t know what type of books you read so therefore don’t know if my wife’s novel would be something you would enjoy. If you go to Amazon.com com and put in Brenda C. Watson you will find her book – “Betwixt – The Mystery of Talon Mountain” – they will allow you to read a page of the book – I think the E Book is around $7.50

  3. Pingback: How Do I Write? « Tracy Todd's Blog

  4. Something else about augmented reality that links back to ebooks…

    When you’re in Second Life, at a certain point, ‘being’ there ceases to be a set of mechanical chores. You start moving and thinking AS IF the body you have there is real. You become a ‘native’. The mechanicals become just a thing you do automatically. (I’m referring to things like ‘walk to door’, or ‘fly to IBM conference centre’.)

    I’m a digital artist. For the first ten or twenty seconds of opening ArtRage, my painting package, the stylus is just that — a stylus: a plastic pencil-like thing with a plastic tip and a button on the side.

    But once I’ve selected a tool — for instance, the oil-brush — within seconds, my brain tricks me into forgetting that it’s a stylus I’m using. The lump of plastic BECOMES a brush.

    Just as an ebook ceases to be an electronic text deliverer. When you’re immersed in the reading, the electronic interface disappears. The contents of the book take over. Which is exactly what happens with a paper book.

    In essence, the things we do in order to accomplish our goals are just a set of habitual and learned actions.

    For me, walking requires no conscious thought. For you, ‘walking’ has become a conceptual analogy for a process involving being put into a wheelchair, and wheeling to where you need to go. You ‘walk’ in that way. Your ‘walk’ simply involves different steps to my ‘walk’.

    At a certain point, as a quad, you’re able to simply think, ‘I need to get to X,’ and the steps follow without too much thought, and you get there.

    So Second Life, painting in ArtRage, reading an ebook BECOME a different reality that hooks into the ‘real’.

  5. Glad the projector idea works for you. Means you can read without using constant fine motor control of the neck and face.

    Second Life isn’t an easy win. You won’t enter the Second Life world and go, ‘Wow! My life has changed!!!’ There’s a learning-curve-deluxe involved. But… Once you’ve gone past that curve, it’s a pretty incredible place.

    I didn’t quite get past the learning curve. At the time I was trying to get into Second Life, I had a slow computer. I had terrible 3G reception. And I had no real reason or goal for my Second Life presence.

    If you do hop into that world, my persona-name is Wild Latte. You can look me up and befriend me. And if I ever enter those shores again, I’ll be able to find you pretty easily. (You can teleport wherever you want.)

    There are all sorts of freebies for Second Life newbies. It’s worth web-searching for stuff, and connecting with people who help newbies.

    Rule number one for newbies in Second Life… Spend NO money!!! Don’t let anyone con you out of bucks. You can get a full existence in that world for free. Only when you’re experienced, and KNOW that it’s your cuppa chai, do you spend money. And that’s to buy real estate.

  6. Ah! I’m not chastising you for having romantic notions about paper books. It’s more about intellectual rigour.

    I’m deeply opposed to automatic conflation. In the book case, the conflation leads to a false argument…

    1. Real books are wonderful.
    2. Electronic books aren’t real books.
    3. Therefore, electronic books aren’t wonderful, and can’t replace real books.

    There’s an old Guinness billboard advert that remains my all time favourite advert, even though I’m opposed to alcohol and alcohol advertising.

    The billboard is a massive headline that reads: ‘I don’t like it cos I haven’t tried it.’ And it has a small bottle of Guinness far right.

    The paradox is brilliant. And it applies to almost anything. In this case, ebooks.

    I just want to keep things completely clear… I don’t think the Kindle or COOL-ER or iPad is the right ebook solution for you. Your pc remains the tool of choice, cos of Dragon Naturally Speaking et al.

    Something you might want to consider… A video projector hooked up to your pc would make for an intensely easy-to-read ebook screen.

    Another thought… Last time I was at the airport, I saw a pair of sunglasses that was actually a screen. I didn’t try the device. But it seemed interesting. A lot like one of those sets of goggles people use for virtual reality immersion. (I note that you don’t wanna put devices on your head. But hey… Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.)

    Yet another thought… Dave Wallace, the LifeKludger, has found real liberation in Second Life. He can walk, fly, build stuff, sculpt, make art. And in real life he can’t even twitch a muscle in his shoulder. He’s completely paralysed from the neck down.

    While I understand that this might seem like an absconding from reality, or a hiding away from real challenges, or a game, it’s really something else entirely. It’s part of the field of augmented reality.

    Just as I can use Google to augment my reality by searching on my phone for facts about a place I visit, so Second Life augments reality by giving me experiences that ADD to my life.

    (I’m not a fan of Second Life. For me, it requires too much committed time. But for Dave, it’s literally a new lease on life. So I’m just presenting it to you as a mind-expansion. For instance, you CAN do paid public speaking gigs within Second Life, without leaving Nelspruit. You can show movies, slides, multimedia documents. All in an alternative reality.)

    • Tracy Todd says:

      I LOVE your idea of a projector. Why did I never think of that? Thank you! Thank you!

      Strangely enough you are the second person this week who has told me about Second Life. To be honest I have scoffed at the idea. But, you have so eloquently pointed out that I should beware of saying “I don’t like it cos I haven’t tried it.”

      I would love to find out more about the sunglasses.

  7. Incidentally, have you had the opportunity yet to touch and interact with an Amazon Kindle (or one of the other e-Paper devices… ones with a screen built to emulate paper)?

    I really have to recommend that you head for someplace like Incredible Connection, where they’re selling the COOL-ER ereader, which uses e-Paper. And experience one of these things.

    It REALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLY is like looking at a printed page. Seriously. I’m not kidding. It’s like your brain will do a jolt when you realise that it’s NOTHING like looking at a computer screen.

    The page IS a printed paper page, as far as your brain is concerned.

    Whatever preconceptions you have about ebooks really disappear when you engage with one of these devices.

    And I reckon that IF you engage with one of these machines, you’ll soon realise that books are books, no matter what form you read them in.

    (Don’t buy the COOL-ER from Incredible Connection. It’s around R3000. And it’s WAYYYYYYYYYY overpriced for what you get. The KINDLE is a much better device in many many respects. And you can get it via Amazon.com for R2600, all expenses included (such as shipping, customs, the whole toot). But look at the COOL-ER in order to experience what an e-Paper device FEELS like. As a reading delivery mechanism.)

    • Tracy Todd says:

      Hi Roy

      I agree that the romanticism of books and paper is probably an exaggeration. But, hey, I am a true romantic through and through! I’m not complaining, I’m just merely expressing my longings and how much I miss doing simple things in life like picking up a book. I am exceptionally grateful that I still have the ability to read and that the technology allows for that in my circumstances.

      Next time I’m up in the big city, I will most certainly make an effort to have a look at your recommendations regarding the readers and experience what an e-paper device feels like.

      I really do appreciate all your advice.

  8. Hi Tracy – Never have I read more compelling words about why real, live books must never go away. Of course, I’m very sad that you can’t hold a big, juicy book (and alternately happy that technology has come along to help), but as you so eloquently write, books themselves contain a certain kind of magic. I actually love holding a book and reading aloud to others. Lately I have embraced the technology of audio books. Having someone read to me feels like a beautiful gift, and is very comforting.

    • Tracy Todd says:

      Thank you Patty! I have to agree with you that real live books have a certain kind of magic which is irreplaceable. I’ve tried audio books a number of times but I find I struggle to concentrate. If I’m not reading myself I find my mind wanders and I miss half the story! Very frustrating!

      Thank you for engaging in this conversation.

      • Heya Tracy and Patty…

        I think the whole romanticisation of the paper artefact is somewhat exaggerated.

        A book is simply a medium. It is a medium that conveys words to us via our eyes.

        A physical paper book is just a specific manifestation of this medium.

        It is a manifestation we’re all VERY fond of, probably because of our positive associations with books in our past. (I know I wouldn’t have made it out of childhood without books. Reading gave me a way out of a not-very-pleasant family situation.)

        But let’s cut the romance. And let’s look at the reality.

        There are only specific TYPES of books that REQUIRE paper. Certain coffee-table books rely on their printed qualities to convey magnitude, design, colour. Certain children’s pop-up books cannot be anything other than printed artefacts. Their power lies in the mechanics of the paper engineering.

        But MOST books — almost ALL books — that we know and love are INVISIBLE RECEPTACLES AND CONVEYANCERS OF PURE WORDS.

        Once we’ve sniffed the pages of a paper book, once we’ve gotten over its physicality, we have one aim: to seamlessly and easily slip into the world created by the words.

        Quite frankly, some of the bigger books I’ve wrestled with in bed did NOT allow this seamlessness, this ease we aim for.

        When I read books ON MY PHONE late late late at night in bed with my girlfriend sleeping beside me, I am completely unaware of the fact that I’m reading on a phone, and not engaging with a paper artefact.

        To put this as simply and strongly as I can: I AM READING.

        Three words. That’s all that counts.

        And I assure you, the physical artefact, while it still attracts me, and I still marvel at the heft and the smell and the sound, is actually just a book. As is the electronic version.

  9. I’ll probably be buying an iPad when they’re available in South Africa. I like the fact that the screen is illuminated (unlike the ‘plain paper’ simulation of the Kindle).

    I’ve read that Amazon is producing Kindle-for-iPad software. Which means my entire library is transferable to the iPad, with no conversion work needed by me.

    The reason my books are transferable to whichever device I choose to read them on is complicated.

    When you buy an ebook from most vendors, you’re NOT buying the book. You’re buying a license to read that book. This is in the fine print. And the vendors take a lot of trouble to obfuscate this fine print.

    As a writer and an artist, I fundamentally disagree with this.

    I want to read the book on whichever device I choose. And I want to be able to share the book with my girlfriend, the way I’d be able to do with a paper book.

    So I’ve done a ton of investigating on the web. And found out how to strip DRM (Digital Rights Management) off the books I buy.

    This means that if I were a book pirate, I could willy nilly hand over copies of all the books in my library to everyone who wants them.

    But I don’t do that. My intention in stripping DRM from these books is to grant me the same rights I have when I buy a physical book.

  10. First off, I reckon ebooks can certainly help with one’s sex life. There’s a LOT of erotica for sale online.

    Right. That’s outta the way.

    Ebooks themselves are a life-changer. I do almost all of my reading nowadays on my Nokia E71, a phone with a fairly small screen.

    I used to be a bibliophile. I used to love the feel and smell and sound of books. Until my most recent house-move. Jennifer and I STILL haven’t unpacked all of the book- boxes. And I can tell you that our books were responsible for more loads than everything else we own combined.

    Now, I have about 150 books on my phone. They simultaneously live on my tablet pc. And on Jennifer’s phone. And online on my DropBox folder, in case I lose them on all the other devices.

    I read them on Mobipocket Reader. And I can also read them on Kindle-for-PC.

    Why’re they so miraculous for me? Well… It’s nothing like the miracle they are for Tracy. But still… I can read at night in bed without interrupting Jennifer. I don’t need a light… My phone screen is all I need.

    In standstill traffic, I whip out the phone and read. In Post Office queues, waiting to pick up an Amazon.com book parcel (yeah, right, as if I actually buy paper books anymore), I read my book.

    More to the point, I read my BOOKS. Plural. Whichever one I feel like reading RIGHT NOW. And I annotate them. Without destroying the pages.

    Now, when I’m in a bookshop, which is still my favourite place on earth, I browse. But instead of buying the paper artefact, I first search the four or five online bookstores I frequent. I price-hop.

    If I find the book, I buy it right then and there.

    If it’s not an ebook yet, I photograph the cover, and send it to my EverNote account to followup on in a month or two.

    I’m an addict. But it doesn’t require 80 big boxes to transport my addiction anymore.

    • Tracy Todd says:

      WOW Roy, it’s so nice to engage with somebody who is so passionate about his reading (and life). Thank you for sharing how ebooks have changed your life. You have a really refreshing attitude – I love that about you!

      I appreciate you taking the time to leave such an insightful comment.

      Thank you!

  11. Like you, Tracy, I am a great lover of books and am so pleased that technology has given you a way to continue to enjoy stories, even if the experience of reading is different. I like @A’s suggestion of an e-reader that releases subtle scents as you read. Very clever!

    • Tracy Todd says:

      Kristen, with the rapid advancement of technology these days I don’t think @A’s suggestion is that far-fetched. Who knows? We live in exciting times.
      Thank you for your comment.

  12. Hi Tracy!

    So love your writing. It reflects a myriad of emotions that always lift me up!

    I’m happy e-books came along for you. Sounds absolutely liberating!
    And it must be good for keeping down the book clutter. At the moment, I’m juggling a good 5 books, with tens of others scattered all over. The “libraryish” room has been full for a few years. Now they are in bookcases, all over, etc.

    Look forward to learning how you write. Happy reading! G.

    • Tracy Todd says:

      G – Enjoy the clutter that comes with having too many books. I always say rather have too many books than too few or none at all.

      Happy reading to you too!

  13. Otto says:

    Hi Tracy if someone offered to whisk you away to a world of technology which involves not cutting edge stuff but bleeding edge stuff would you go? Like being able to control things around you with your thoughts? (as far as I know that is already possible to some extent) Perhaps there is a place out there somewhere? Let’s say there was a place like that and you went there, do you think you would feel more like a guinea pig rather than a person?

    • Tracy Todd says:

      Otto, a part of me would be so tempted to say yes. I love adventure, excitement and the thrill of new experiences. I would feel privileged to be a part of this kind of advancement that could make a real difference to this world.

      And yet, another part of me could never imagine being whisked away from my support structure that makes my life more bearable – my son, my family and my friends.

  14. It’s so great to get posts from you at shorter intervals of time. I look forward to it more than the Times. Being a carefree tech user, I also love the current subjects of course.

    I respect your choice regarding headgear, but I wish you would consider one. An occasional Miss Universe-style tiara might give you additional influence over those you encounter casually.

    On the other hand, your authenticity works just as well, and comes across pretty quickly. (Never mind. Just imagineering.)

    • Tracy Todd says:

      Michael, I can barely tolerate a hat on my head these days as a result of the humiliation I suffered from wearing that alien inspired monstrosity on my head.

      Don’t get too excited about frequent blog posts because it takes me a really long time to write them. I’ll explain in my next post.

  15. A says:

    Maybe some clever guy will one day design some attachment to an e-reader or a notebook that will release the smell of paper from time to time… But it will have to be able to release a variety of smells; The smell of new paper and fresh ink, the smell of old paper and history of an Africana book… Does an e-reader replicate the sound of the page turning? Even that differs from book to book.

    Great post!

    • Tracy Todd says:

      Mmmm…I especially love the smell of old books. There is nothing better than going into a library and inhaling deeply! I still love to go into book shops despite not being able to pick up the books.

  16. Deborah says:

    Hi Tracy – isn’t it amazing how, despite technological advances, so many people still enjoy, as you so eloquently describe, the feel and smell of a book as well as the actual contents of it. I will be so interested to read about how you write and am looking forward to your next post.x

    • Tracy Todd says:

      Thanks Deborah. I look forward to telling you about how I write and many other things. I don’t think that technology will ever be able to replace the value of books in our lives as they appeal to most of our senses.

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