Before I first acquired a Kindle, exactly one year ago, I didn’t usually buy books while under the influence of alcohol. I won’t say I never did it, because that would be a lie. But it wasn’t a habit. After a couple of glasses of wine, I tend to fixate on the present. I have no use for five to seven days’ delivery time. The Kindle is wonderful for drunk people because you can climb into bed, press one button, and The Anatomy of Melancholy instantaneously materialises before you, plucked by the so-called Whispernet out of the surrounding ether.
The number of books I buy while sober is, I have noticed, inversely proportional to the number I buy while drunk. It’s a zero-sum game, as Proust once observed of wet dreams: when all the resources are consumed in the night, none are left for waking life.
Counting free samples and e-books from the pre-1923 copyrightless domain, the total number of books I “purchase” per month has actually gone up by about 200%, while the number of books I purchase while sober has dwindled to about 5% of the total. You used to be able to say that someone’s library looked like it had been assembled by a drunk person. Now, for me, the metaphor has become a reality. How does a drunk person’s library differ from a sober person’s library? There are probably as many answers as there are drunk people, so I can only speak for myself.