I am a Luddite when it comes to reading. I like print newspaper. I like glossy magazines. I love hardcover books. When the world has been overtaken by Kindles and Nooks and Kobos, you will pry the Penguin Classics paperbacks from my cold fingers.
I read about a new eBook series called The First Time I Heard and knew I had to check it out. Edited by novelist Scott Heim, these are collections of essays by musicians and writers talking about – yes, the first time they heard – the music of seminal acts like David Bowie, The Smiths, and Joy Division/New Order.
Given that my favorite ice breaker to someone I don’t know very well is, “What was your first concert?” I figured the material would be right up my alley. I started with The First Time I Heard Kate Bush, whose contributors include Daren Taylor (The Airborne Toxic Event), Paul Livingston (The Trashcan Sinatras), musical theater directors Martin Lowe and John Tiffany, and writers Chris Roberts, Kellie Wells, Michelle Hoover, and Kevin Killian.
Each essay provides a moment in time, beautifully rendered, when Bush’s ethereal voice and fairy queen presence first registered with these listeners. (My first time: college, at my best friend Maria’s off campus apartment, Hounds of Love. Holy crap.) For fans of Bush or the other bands featured thus far in the series, it’s a chance to wallow around with like-minded aficionados and say, “She is awesome,” “Yeah, AWESOME!” “SO AWESOME,” like you did with your friends in high school and college back when we all had time for that sort of languid conversation. So I liked the book based on that fact alone.
What I didn’t expect was to be wowed so completely by the perfect meeting of content and function of the eBook format. I don’t have a Kindle (obviously) so I downloaded the Kindle App to my iPhone in order to read the Kate Bush book. The essays are short—two to five pages each, on average—which made them perfect reading for when I was standing in line or sitting in the car waiting for the kids to come out of ballet. If an essay referenced a Kate Bush song with which I wasn’t familiar, I’d click over to YouTube and watch it, and if I liked it, could immediately download it via iTunes before getting back to the essays, all without losing my place.
Truly, it’s the first time where I thought that the e-format provided an improvement over a hard copy book. To replicate this process in the offline world, you’d need a stereo and all of Kate Bush’s albums, and you’d still miss watching the videos.So while I may not be a convert to eBooks yet, in the case of The First Time I Heard I’m a total believer.