Each month, I commute 60+ miles from Hood River to Portland, OR in order to attend a multiple myeloma support group hosted by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Today’s meeting featured a speaker from my doctor’s oncology group, Northwest Cancer Specialists. The subject was an update on December’s annual conference of the American Society of Hematology.

The back of our house-blue skies before the storm

The ASH meetings provide the latest in research on all blood cancers, including, of course, multiple myeloma. I’ve already examined much of what went on at this conference but I looked forward to asking questions unanswered by the press releases. Unfortunately, winter weather prevented me from traveling through the Columbia River Gorge.

We only received three inches of snow. However, the weather pattern consisted of a relatively warm Pacific storm with significant moisture butting up against a stationary cold front. The transition causes freezing rain and treacherous driving conditions in the Gorge.

Instead of a Q & A on myeloma, I spent the day with my new Christmas present, a Kindle. The Kindle is a brand name for a book reader sold only through Amazon. What’s a book reader? It’s a digital device into which books may be downloaded wirelessly and read from a screen similar to a book’s page.

When the weather is nice, I like to read on this bench under the Walnut tree

The Kindle does for book portability what the iPod did for music. Theoretically, I can carry around with me a personal library of reading material. Better yet, I can supplement that library wherever I find a Wi-Fi connection.

Prior to owning a kindle I deluded myself about the importance of sensual contact with printed pages. Those reservations went out the window once I put mine to use. The elegant design and simplicity of operation converted me instantaneously.

My Kindle library now contains four books. 61 Hours by Lee Child is a barnburner of a mystery, a perfect temporary remedy to crummy winter weather. Memory Wall is a collection of short stories by Anthony Doerr. The prose is excellent; the tales are compelling. The locations vary while always examining the theme of remembrance. I highly recommend this book.

Currently, I’m into The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli along with another collection of short stories, What Becomes by the fascinating Scottish writer and comedian, A. L. Kennedy.

My Kindle came with a bodyguard

I read a lot. Book readers do not make reading easier or more fun. At the moment, I’ve still several questions about their shortcomings. Things such as how to loan books to friends, or what happens if you lose or break your Kindle. In time, entrepreneurs will come up with satisfactory answers.

Whether or not you find this brief review intriguing, rest assured that the way we read and access books is changing. As Kindles and their competitors develop, the utility of book readers will, for better or worse, alter the conventional necessity of bookstores and libraries. There is no going back.

PS: My favorite book of 2010 was The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. If you’ve ever owned a dog or cat, gerbil or parrott, turtle or pet rock, read this book.