Sunday, 2 September 2012

Changing forms

I was reading a piece in the Paris Review this morning and this sentence took me back to my own antagonism towards e-books – An antagonism not even a year old in its demise.

True, I frequently condemned e-books as yet another symptom of a world unable to sit quietly with itself.
In a discussion harking back to 2008 with a dear friend, I remember dismissing e-books as something that would never quite have the charm of paper books, something that could not compete with the musty smell of a library, with scribbled notes and underlinings in second hand books.  Re pointed out then that a part of my discomfort lay perhaps with the fact that I was attempting to read books on a laptop with tools (software) that did nothing to enhance the reading experience and that my experience with an e-book reading device such as the kindle might change my mind. I shrugged off the argument then. I see some truth in it now.

I started seriously considering e-books at the beginning of this year as I was hit by the finiteness of space and the ensuing clutter (something else that this piece talks about). Books began to spill out at me from a reasonably spacious cupboard at home and I am not one of those who like to keep books out on the nightstand or piled up on the floor. I like them stacked neatly, in some sort of order and in a way that gives me access to most of them. I hate having to wade through two rows of books to get at something I want to read or re-read – something that was becoming common. There simply wasn’t space enough to stack them in single rows!

I began the process of wrapping my head around the idea of an ebook, a process made easier by an impending move back to Mumbai and a decision to take only those books that I’d not read yet (a formidable stack in itself) and my Food and Photography books (even then, I did manage to sneak in one much thumbed, comfort book). Flats in Mumbai being matchbox sized, I wanted to keep the new pad spare and not overflowing with things.

My Kindle Library
I finally got myself an iPad about a month ago and since then have been reading voraciously on the Kindle app. Yes, having a handheld device has made reading in the electronic format much easier. Another plus point has been the free access to a ton of books that are out of copyright restrictions – Books that I would have thought twice before buying in print. I have also fallen in love with the ability to switch between books seamlessly, with being able to make notes as I read.

The one thing that I can’t make up mind about though, is whether I like being able to check out related stuff online as I read. At times it seems like a needless distraction, at others like a definite boon in being able to piece things together. I miss the dedicated act of reading… of being immersed in a book and nothing else.

I also miss the feel of paper, connected so intimately in my mind with the art of storytelling. While I don’t intend ridding myself of physical books entirely, in time that nostalgia might fade. For now, I am happy balancing the two, basking in the breathing space that gadgets give me.


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