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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Matters of Textual Importance

I've been having this internal 'Get a Kindle or not' battle for weeks now. One part of me says I ought to wait for another two generations to be out at least. It points out that actually, e-books are just as expensive as brand new books and you can't get them second hand so if nothing else, the sentimnetalist hard-copy lover wins for purely economic reasons (cheapness? :D).

It sounds very cool as such ... zooming facility, font adjustment, being able to read even in the sun, being able to carry a 1000 books with you wherever you go ... but I don't see how it might replace the physical book. I think there will always be the need for physical books. If the day comes when people stop printing books, I won't be eating my words, I'll merely be ruing the loss of something so irreplaceable.

I can see where an e-reader might be useful. Students needn't carry a zillion textbooks/references around, it's all there in one handy package. And you could still squiggle all you like in the margins. One could possibly write/read a 'live' book which becomes available on a chapter basis as it's written. It has possibilities, no denying that.

Books are a personality thing I think. The book you're carrying says something (a lot, perhaps) about you. It can be a conversation opener, an in-joke, a point in itself. A cover is a peerless advert by itself.

But buy an e-reader and you lose out on that. It's going to be the next ipod/iphone. Owning one would make me just another standard issue hi-class-piece-of-technology owner. No more surreptitious glances from people around me when I carry The Ex-boyfriend's Handbook, no amused smiles when I'm walking on the road with the book in my hand upside down (which amuses me in turn. It's not like I'm reading WHILE I'm walking! Come to it, holding the book upside down would actually make reading when walking easier), no more being the frills-and-furbelows girl reading Neverwhere, or the girl who looks like she'd bite your head off but can be seen smiling fondly as she reads The Wedding Officer. No more. Instead, all you have is just another person with a square tablet that looks no different from someone else's. I don't think this is necessarily an upgrade, the saving space, upgrading to something niftier. In a sense, it's loss of individuality.

Heck, what about things like books launches?! What about standing in queue to get the author sign your copy? What about waiting to buy something very special, like the 50th anniversary copy of To Kill a Mocking-bird? There won't BE a 50th anniversary copy as such considering they'd look and feel just the same electronically (at this point anyway). And what will the author do, sign your e-reader? Or sign your e-book with an e-signature but honestly, that ain't good enough for me. Give me ink any day. And paper.

Thank you, Chandni, for inspiring this post. I must admit that I actually wrote the entire post in your comment window :-| (which just goes to show that what they say about a change of scenery being inspiring really is true!)

12 comments:

  1. Dude I agree that if it were upto me, I would not have given up the comfort of holding/hugging a book.
    But now that I have the Kindle, I don't miss books too much :)

    When you buy second hand books or lend books to friends, the readership increases without the publication house/author getting their due for it. With a Kindle, they can be at peace.
    Secondly, I am saving on paper, lesser trees will be cut(not that I ever was bothered too much about it), nevertheless, I am using it for a few months now, I have not got the urge to just put it aside and get books :)

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  2. I won't buy a Kindle - bcoz like Divi - I don't want to get used to it. Nothing wrong with it. But I LOVE physical books. And this is my own, stupid little way of making people print them! :D

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  3. I agree with what you say here although the points made by Divs also make much sense.

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  4. I love love love my books. I want to hold them, feel them (do I sound like crazy?). I might get used to Kindle if I ever own one, but I don't want one, not even willing to try it :)

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  5. Oh..and what about the smell? The smell of a fresh new book when you pen for the first time? Or when you find a really old one in library with brown papers.

    Little pleasures those :)

    I would probably still be okay with one of those tablets to carry on a long trip. Not to sit on the balcony and read at home with a cup of chai. :)

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  6. Anonymous11:14 AM

    The husband has been pestering me to get one for ages now, but I guess we all remain sentimental fools when it comes to physical books (kind of like a lot of women are proud of their saree collection)! The only reason I would ever settle for Kindle is the LACK OF SPACE to store my hundreds of books! Even the bed box is full now!

    GirlNextDoor

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  7. Celestialrays: Okay your comment has inspired a follow-up post so I'll write one. I did wonder what you'd have to say ... I think I might try yours out to see how I like it :D

    Catty: The way I see it, people like you will keep the industry going, no matter on how small a scale.

    SnS: Yup, follow up post happening soon, watch this space.

    Titaxy: Okay, yay, another person for hard-copies! :)

    AHK: Zackly so! The two formats would co-exist I suppose.

    GirlNextDoor: Personally, my motto is 'Don't let any man (anyone, actually) come in between you and your books and food.' But that's just me. I sometimes wonder what people will do with all the space when they've gotten rid of books. Um, are you new here? Leave a link next time, please?

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  8. A book anyday.

    That new book smell just cannot be replicated!

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  9. Valid thoughts, all. I'm typically quite technology-happy, but what about the new book smell and the rustle of pages and curling up on an armchair clutching....umm..plastic. Nah. For now and for this particular scenario, it's the old school for me.

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  10. La vida loca12:14 AM

    Thought I commented on this. I love books. I read on the commuter train (1 hour or so each way, daily). But dude! lugging heavy books and my line of work DONT mix. My back HURTS. So will probably buy a reading device sooner or later.

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  11. Erm, looks like I left a comment meant for this post on the previous one. *sheepish look*
    Kshamisi dayavittu...

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  12. I echo your sentiments totally. I prefer the physical book. Or the hard copy or what ever. I'm a sentimentalist where books are concerned. Because a book has memories associated with it. The first gift I got from my husband was a book of poems. It has the date and his signature. When I buy a book, I always write my name, the date and the place I purchased it from. It tells anyone who picks up the book to read, a bit of my story too!
    Images of my dream house always have a book lined room. All four walls lined with bookshelves choked with books. A nice armchair and a great music system.

    Real books for me anyday!!

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