Editorial: The ghosts of Christmas presents

One of the best Christmas gifts I ever received was a book from my bride - Anton Myrer's "Once an Eagle."

I'd read it once and loved it, but somewhere in multiple moves from state to state it was lost or discarded.

It's a tale of a young man from Nebraska who feels he's destined for greatness. Sam Damon joins the Army, serves heroically in WWI and earns a field promotion to lieutenant. He serves through the long, dry period between world wars, fighting off the pull of private industry when it beckons, stubbornly staying in the service until history calls again.

The book ends with General Sam Damon's death in an imaginary Southeast Asian country sometime in the 1960s.

The book was so powerful at the time of its printing it was pretty much required reading for Army officers. For all I know, officers questioning their commitment reread the book to help strengthen their resolve to serve their country.

As for me, I couldn't read it back in the 1990s because it was out of print. I found that out in one of those mega Las Vegas book stores. But in that same visit, while I was wandering through the aisles, my bride discovered the book could be purchased - if you paid $50 to have it printed.

She did, and I started reading the book again that Christmas Day.

Times have changed. I'm not sure if there are any mega Las Vegas book stores anymore, largely because the best gift I got this year was not a book but, rather, something to read books with. There are all sorts of e-readers out there, and the one I received is almost identical to the first one my daughter gave me a few Christmases back.

The difference is that the new version has its own light. I can now read in the dark - a luxury I didn't have on a recent trip north and back when the road stretched on forever and the sun was long gone.

My e-reader has changed my life. I found myself devouring all over again books that I'd enjoyed at one time, while about half of the purchases were for new material - new to me, anyway.

And it's so simple even I can do it. I go to the website, browse, then decide which book (out of millions, I suppose) that I want to buy. I push a button, and 30 seconds later it's in my reader.

Yes, one of the books I've read again is "Once an Eagle." The $50 hardback version was probably well over two pounds, a chore to hold up in bed or when you're sitting up. The e-reader weighs much less, and Stephen King's "The Stand" and "It," both hefty tomes in book form, don't add an ounce to my e-reader.

There's a price for this convenience. All e-books weigh the same and you don't have to go to the store to buy them. They are, literally, a few keystrokes away.

Some time back, the line was crossed and more e-books were sold in one month than the books you actually hold in your hands.

I shrugged off the news that compact disc sales had exceeded vinyl, eventually dumped my record collection and turntable and rebuilt my music library from the ground up.

Proving, I suppose, that there will always be one more reason to buy all those Beatles albums again.

Those like-new LPs I got rid of are worth some money these days (and, really, they did sound better), but I don't regret not moving a couple hundred pounds of them from house to house and town to town five times since then.

And CDs also seem to be endangered. I'm no expert, but it appears to me all the music I've got on five racks of CDs can be put in something the size of a tape measure.

The book and CD thing, plus buying movies online and storing them in some cloud, are sort of a triple whammy for one of my favorite Kingman stores. I've informally tracked the changes at Hastings as the Kingman store and its franchise have continued to adapt. And adapting quite well, in my opinion.

I can't think of too many stores in the community that haven't been impacted by this trend. You won't be gassing up your car online anytime soon, and I suspect the price of shipping a week's worth of food or a house's worth of lumber is probably prohibitive.

But just about everything else you need - including news - can be obtained online.

I wonder how Sam Damon would react to leading a regiment of desk jockeys flying drones?