Monday, July 12, 2010

eBooks on the “Down Low”

I’m finishing Elena Santangelo’s Poison to Purge Melancholy, which I bought at Malice Domestic this year. I’m enjoying the way she works poisons into the historical subplot and how readily available those poisons were in the 1700s. Even before I started reading it, I had heard a NPR radio interview with Deborah Blum on her new book about poisons and forensic science in New York City in the 1920s.

I’m not a CSI TV show watcher; in fact I don’t think I’ve watched a cop show since “Hill Street Blues.” Forensic science is fascinating. I’ve heard multiple opinions from the real technicians: Either they say the TV labs have more funds and equipment than real life could ever hope for, or they say they never get involved and only write up reports – not much drama there. So I think I avoid those CSI-type programs because I don’t want to write a mystery where the research comes from watching TV. That’s second-hand knowledge.

Back to the poisons. Now the public is gaga over forensics. I don’t know if Blum’s book would have been on NPR if it weren’t for the success of television shows like CSI. I listened to the interview as I drove and found her anecdotes fascinating. I went into the William & Mary Bookstore yesterday and bought The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum. It has bumped up on my reading list to follow Santangelo’s mystery, which is just a few chapters from the end.

The “Down Low” part of this tangential blog is how self-conscience I felt walking around town with a book titled The Poisoner’s Handbook (trying to be green, I declined the shopping bag for the one item). Sunday afternoon is a time for beer in Colonial Williamsburg. People tended to guard their drinks when I sat down near them and they saw the book’s title.

[I will clarify: Blum does not give poison recipes.]

I thought, maybe I should have bought the Kindle copy. That way, no one would know what I was reading.

That covert reading is a plus for eBooks. I will admit I have bought Kindle books that I probably wouldn’t have bought in paper form – mainly because of the cover or title. Some books look too much like romances (not that there is anything wrong with that), when they aren’t. Some aren’t as literary as you want your reading image to convey. Some covers are just too sexy to have complete strangers see you carry on the train or bus.

My first Derek Mason Mystery Fingering the Family Jewels is doing great Kindle sales. Yes, I know the title is a bit risqué for some people, and I wonder if that’s who is buying it in eBook format. Read the book, but don’t let mama know.

Where the Internet opened up a way to buy any book without awkwardness, now eBooks let you read any book, anywhere with complete subject/storyline anonymity.

Be it books on poison, romances, erotica, Dr. Ruth, Dr. Phil, or books with risqué titles, now you can read on the down low. And that (as VP Biden likes to say) is a big f-ing deal.

Read what you want!

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