Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Back to books

i have always loved reading. i might sound crazy but the world of books fascinates me so much that its my secret wish to be able to read up all the books in the world! The excitement of looking forward to reading a book is unparalleled. i have read quite a few classics as a major in literature. But even after college, i always find reading soothing. It cuts me out from the real world and takes me into the world of the book and its characters, albeit make believe. It doesn’t matter whether the genre is fact or fiction, as long as it is interesting.

But as real life got busier, there has been less and less time to read. But i never forget to notice if i am not able to spare time for reading. i was thrilled when my husband introduced me to an ipad and had reading applications uploaded on it. Now i could read books on the move - even if i didn’t own an actual copy which would occupy space in my overcrowded apartment! It was a bonus that i could read before i went to sleep - my favourite time to read - with the lights off since an ipad is backlit. (i hate to have to get up and switch off the light just as i am blissfully dozing off reading!) i finished reading books i had from the Harry Potter series for the umpteenth time just to enjoy having something to read. In fact, it felt like such an ultimate thing in reading technology that i even learnt to download a software that could convert ant format of books to ipad format (epub). i felt like being a pro to be able to actually download software!!

Getting my own Kindle reader this year was another high point furthering the goal of reading regularly. Light, small, handy and less straining on the eyes since the screen is not backlit but has a matte finish to duplicate the experience of reading a book. i once again went berserk converting books to .mobi format to do justice to Kindle’s capabilities of holding about 5000 books in its tiny self. i have more books uploaded on it than have the time to read.

Somewhere between the ipad and Kindle phases, i discovered a library in the neighbourhood (it’s been there all these years, only i found it recently!) Bingo! All those books neatly lined had me salivating to devour all of them one by one! i found and finished the whole of Shopaholic series (and Sophie Kinsella books replaced J K Rowling books as comfort reading). i got to read books by Kareena’s dietician and her fitness expert (sharing some of the secrets behind her hot-bod) and the latest book by Malcolm Gladwell. i try to pick up a mix of fact and mindless fiction depending on what I feel like reading.

But somehow after the initial euphoria of owning devices that made reading easy and on the go, i seem to keep going back to real books of the library. Even when i am traveling, i no longer look forward to reading on Kindle. i’d rather take my library book along.

What happened there?

Well, i have realised that technology, however convenient it makes reading, can never replace the experiential kick of having a real book. The actual act of touching and holding the book, turning its pages softly, saving it from any scratches and creases- especially if it’s bought spending money- during the reading process, the pleasure of hitting the i-finished-half mark and turning pages to check how many more pages to go are incomparable and no reading device in the world can ever offer that. In fact, the lure of a book shelf in a store and the fragrance of brand new books is second to none. (i am not kidding! The next time you are at a book store, open a book at random and sniff deeply to take in the best perfume in the world!)

i don’t know if this feeling has anything to do with the fact that i spent the first 20 yrs of my life in the previous century and grew up in the pen and paper era. Being gadget-friendly is only an acquired behaviour.  On the contrary, teenagers of this century seem to be absolutely at home with their smart phones and reading/gaming devices.

Reading is a habit that was always encouraged when we were kids. It is one of the virtues that would help us in the future and books are a constant companion, we were told. There’s no harm in using technology to access knowledge. But i think losing an era where one could savour reading real books saddens me. i remember when British Council Library in Mumbai went online and shut its physical locations, one of my friends lamented that our kids might never know the joys of going through piles of books in a library to select a book. True, i am sure my kids, used to having Google throw up links to the exact book that they want in just miliseconds, will pull a long face at the tediousness of having to go through racks and racks of books in a library to find what one wants to read. But you know what, kids, that is the real deal!!


  1. It's sad but true - we are from another era who have seen the stuff our parents enjoyed which we also enjoyed and we have also seen tech take over and give us options that the 1 - 20 have never seen , experienced.
    To them this would be an alien experience.

    Technology does rob you of certain experiences like a Physical experience of reading a book, turning the pages , musty smell etc. but on the other hand makes accessibility a priority which is missing in a book.

    It is always a fine balance between new and Old, but in a lot of ways loosing the physical does take out the experience. I myself love to read books and do prefer the physical book to an e-book no matter what the device.

  2. thanks for the post!
    i struggle between wanting to read a hard copy versus being eco-friendly but i guess old habits die hard. i just need to have the sensory experience of holding the book in my hand, turning the pages, using bookmarks, and oh the smell of books :)

  3. Nicely expressed thought... We are blessed to be born in between 2 generations... Understand the pros & corn of the old verses new way of life style...

    Keep :)...

  4. OMG... this could be me talking!!! JKR, Shopaholic have both been comfort series... I read to fall asleep and talk abiut the delights of ebooks! wow.... we seem to be peas of the same pod :)