The E-reader and I

by Ahalya on October 29, 2011

It's light, and I carry it around absolutely everywhere I go

I hate, absolutely hate, to admit it, but my currently-gloating husband was right after all. It isn’t too difficult to get used to reading books on a dedicated e-book reader, such as the Kindle. It’s really easy on the eyes (the screen is not like your mobile phone screen, so it does not mirror light back at you), doesn’t trail wires, dammit, it does not even look like a gadget when it’s resting in its case, and once you are hooked to a book, you honestly do forget that it is a device you are holding in your hand. Heck, I even tried turning the page when I was reading Changeless (a book in the Parasol Protectorate series).

But wait! Before you roll your eyes and call me a traitor for giving up on real books, hear me out — I still love books in what I will refer to as their ‘proper form’. Hand me a paper book, and hand me its e-version on my Kindle (they cost nearly the same still), and I would rather read the paper book. If I had a really huge bookshelf at home, and a really good bookstore round the corner, I would be hunting for my next read there, and not buying from an e-store. But, most bookstores in Bombay have nothing more than a great selection of the top ten bestsellers, and yesterday’s top ten bestsellers, and pen knives, and keychains. Books of the ‘excellent, unputdownable, but not popular yet’ genre do not seem to enter these stores. For instance, high-octane writers like David Quammen, John Man, Jasper Fforde, and old stalwarts such as Jules Verne, Mark Twain, and Patricia Highsmith are not properly represented in today’s bookstore. Neither do many bookstores offer to get you the books you are looking for. And when an intensely addictive writer like John Man beckons you with the map of the world in the year 1000, or gives you the story of the alphabet, I just have to start reading immediately.

A short digression — now that I think of it, the way I buy books these days has changed a lot, compared to how it used to be even three years ago. Back then, to determine my next read, I would rely on recommendations made by friends, and supplement it with my own foraging in magazines, blogs, and newspapers. After that, I would prowl around bookstores till I got cross-eyed reading the vertical-horizontal bookspines till I found the book. And then, I hesitantly tried online book stores, and preferred buying my books via my laptop.

These days, I continue to forage for recommendations on blogs, magazines, and Goodreads for my to-read list. One more click (having my husband’s Amazon password, and credit card details help) and the book is mine. Within minutes.

Alright, I am sorry. I am not swooning over the wonders of modern technology, or trying to show how I am a better reader because of the Kindle, or anything of the sort. But the curious fact is, I have been a happier reader since I got the Kindle. The first few days were frustrating, I had a hundred Classics I had always wanted to read (you can download most of them for free from Gutenberg, and other sites), a few new books my husband thought would lure me into the Kindle, and I did not know what to start with. After two pages of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (it was in the wrong format, pdfs don’t read well on the Kindle), and four pages of McCall Smith’s first instalment of Corduroy Mansion (it just didn’t grip me enough) I glumly skipped a few more books. I protested nastily that e-readers aren’t worth the hype. The husband almost gave up on me then.

And in this case (note the reading light!), it looks like a slim organiser, which keeps away curious people from peeking over my shoulder while I read in the train

Until finally, I found Mercy by Jussi Adler Olsen. I could not keep the book (Kindle) down, and was stuck to it for three days. A good side-effect of reading on a dedicated e-reader has been that I now, instantly look up difficult words as I read them. Nice no?

The other things I like about the Kindle — you can read while you are eating, and not worry about the fan ruffling the pages, you can look up words and facts on the Wiki, you can refer to books you have already read when you are discussing them with others, if you are travelling you can carry all your reference books (if they are in the right format), and books to suit every mood. What else?

Um, no matter where I find the aforementioned gloating husband lurking around to smirk and say ‘I told you so’, I can now ignore him properly by burying my nose in a good book.


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