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     Volume 9 Issue 48| December 17, 2010 |


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Straight talk

The Gradual Demise of the
Paper Book


While a well-stacked library is something to take pride in, sometimes there just isn't any more space left.

It always gives me a huge sense of satisfaction when I finish reading a book and place it on the already crowded bookshelf. If the book is a particularly good one I find myself turning the pages with anticipation, unable to put it down but then reaching the end becomes a somewhat bittersweet experience as I am torn by the feeling of pleasure at having reached the end of the story but a little sad that the brief sojourn in another time or a different world comes to an end as well. We all know that films are a great way of escapism but books just have that added extra of letting your imagination work its own magic.

Talking about reading, one person in my household who has a voracious appetite when it comes to books is my younger daughter (I wish this would extend to food as well!). In fact we realised that we could not keep up with her in terms of purchasing a book every time she finished one, which in her ideal world, would have been one a day. So we did the next best thing and made her a member of our local library. She was overjoyed when she realised she could take up to eight books out at a time and so were we.

However, the novelty of driving her to the library and watching her eyes light up as she browsed through the rows of books was to be short lived. On the one hand we were delighted by her love of reading and ability to devour them at lightning speed, but on the other hand I have to admit that we found it rather tiresome having to drag ourselves to the library every few days come rain or shine. The culmination of this situation was that my daughter decided to save up her money and buy an Amazon Kindle which is a type of electronic reader which utilizes wireless connectivity to allow people to 'shop for, download, browse, and read e-books, newspapers, magazines, blogs, and other digital media in some countries'.

We now no longer have to make frequent trips to book shops or libraries as she can buy and read almost any book she wants on her Kindle but I have to say that I am in two minds about the thought of paper books being gradually replaced by these electronic readers.

If I think about it rationally, the e-books are definitely the way forward. You can have thousands of books at your fingertips and not only that, you can carry your very own personal library with you in your pocket or purse and take it with you wherever you go. No need to wonder where you left a certain book or where you misplaced it! I should also mention that you would never lose the page you were last reading as these electronic readers remember which page you were on.

Are e-books really as good as the real thing?

We could also pat ourselves on the back for being environmentally friendly. It would no longer be necessary to cut down trees for paper, nor would there be any extra carbon emissions that are produced when the wood, paper or even the books are being transported or any energy being consumed for the production of paper books. Compact, mobile and eco friendly -the positive aspects seem endless.

However, when I think of it from the not so rational part of my brain, I cannot help but feel sad that paper books may one day be replaced by these electronic digital versions.

I am not a hoarder by nature but one thing I am extremely reluctant to part with are books. I love having bookshelves in every conceivable place in the house jam packed with old and new books. It is a visual feast for me to see novels, biographies, encyclopaedias all jostling for a place next to each other on the shelves, be it at home, in bookstores or the library. Sometimes when I go back to Bangladesh I am hit by a wave of nostalgia when I see a book I read as a child sitting on my mother's bookshelf. I have recollections of either being curled up on a chair in the veranda or lying in bed reading past my bed time and it gives me immense pleasure when I see my children reading the same storybook I read all those years ago.

It is a wonderful feeling walking into a bookstore and trying to choose just the right book/s to take home. You can spend hours trawling through the aisles flicking through the pages, scanning the reviews or reading the blurb on the back of the books. Whether it is the title that catches your eye or the cover tempting you to delve into the black and white delights inside, the experience is delightful. It would be a travesty if this experience were to be whittled down to just looking on your electronic reader and reading an excerpt or write up and buying it. Where is the charm in that?

When our children were younger my husband and I took turns reading to them. We would carefully choose a book that we thought they would enjoy, look at the pictures together, let them turn the pages and be silently amused when even before they could read properly, would catch us out if we tried to skip a line or paragraph. I am not sure that the memories would have been quite the same had we been reading to them from an electronic reader.

I am sure given time I will also be wooed by the whole electronic and digital revolution and find myself the proud owner an Amazon Kindle, the Barnes and Noble Nook, the Sony reader or some form of electronic reader but until then I am going to enjoy the pleasures of holding a book in my hands and trying not to crease the spine while I turn the pages and trying remember which page I had read up to. I think the book White Tiger by Aravind Adiga is calling to me from my bedside table...



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