I may come off as a hypocrite writing this; for, I own two of the best known electronic reading devices of the day. However, my association with the printed word is quite old and happens to date back to a time when computers were rare and smart phones – virtually unheard of. This should explain, in most part, my preference for the good old actual ‘books’ to their electronic counterparts. However there are other reasons for this partiality.
First and foremost, there is the unbeatable experience of visiting a physical bookstore (or a library for that matter) and spending hours together, just picking up books, reading their synopses or a snippet about their authors or even just feeling their cover. The thrill of coming across an unusual book and deciding to buy it on a whim is simply unbeatable! There have also been times, when I have finished half a book, sitting in the bookstore, before making the decision to buy it!
I now move onto the part of actually holding the book, opening it and reading its content. I agree that the e-book devices offer many advantages in this area, the first being their portability and lightness. But, this is outweighed by a significant point – the heaviness of a book, gives me a rough estimate of the hard work put in by the author. This gives me a strong motivation to continue reading the book and attempt finishing it – no matter the quality of the content! Also, I feel free of the obnoxious need to carry the book around and read it in every place possible, thus inconveniencing many a fellow passenger, especially while commuting in a jam packed train or bus.
While I’m reading a book, I sometimes just spend time admiring the cover photographs, art work or illustration and try relating these to the story at hand. I even flip to the last page or back cover to secretly admire the author’s photograph or get an occasional glimpse of their lives. Also, I tend to associate each book with the print font (which I feel is different for every book) and the feel and smell of each page I read. I feel denied of these simple pleasures while reading the e-book version.
Moving on, now, to the other famed advantages of the e-book. If I use a reading device or app, I could get to know the “percentage of completion” of the book. This can hardly compare to having a verifiable proof of the number of pages successfully conquered and the number still remaining, while reading an actual book. The thrill of having to guess at the meanings of difficult words, in terms of their context, thanks to the lethargy of having to look them up in that huge dictionary, more than compensates for the advantage of an in-built thesaurus.
I now come to the part of “handling” a book. A particularly good book meant that it would be handled with extra care. It would have a designated ‘reading spot’ and a ‘reading time’ – it would not be read in bed and certainly not while eating. All its pages would be smoothed and ironed out, a proper bookmark would be used and it would be allotted the best of positions in the book-shelf. Needless to say, the e-book does not lend itself to such care and attention.
And last, but not the least, there is the pride of owning so many books and a huge bookshelf. The bookshelf itself would be selected with care and the arrangement of books inside it would be an activity requiring lots of time and attention to detail. This is, after all a prized possession – one that would be proudly displayed to friends and relatives alike.
This is not to say that I’m going to completely stop reading e-books. Rather, I would try and balance out my time between them and their older and (in many ways) better kinsmen!