Library dreams

I was really excited about Sunday. Not just because it was my weekly off but because I was going shopping, book shopping. So, I landed in a mall and headed straight to Crossword, ignoring the dozens of sales promotions that kept cropping up in front of me (With some difficulty, I must say). It would seem that I had taken the Crossword motto of ‘Wear the old coat and buy the new book’ to heart. But then I had not bought a book for long and was craving to pick up a nice book, putting my name on the front, caressing the pages, and settling down with it. I had built the happy ending in my head.

And then I entered Crossword.

Crossword had a sale going on too, which was why I was there in the first place. It turns out my money isn’t fond of books, only I am. Anyway, the sale was a disappointment. I couldn’t find ‘the’ book that I wanted and it went downhill from there. I was made to spell out Ray Bradbury‘s name thrice and then had to enter it myself, only to be told his books were not in stock. I could have clubbed the staff with a bat at that point. My happy dreams were crashing down. But, I was not going to give in. I took the escalator downstairs and entered Landmark. This time my dreams were crushed. I couldn’t buy Bradbury and instead limped home with a single book.

Unhelpful staff and a handful of authors in stock that was the curse of the big bookstore. As Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan will tell you in You’ve Got Mail.

E-books are the next big change in the literary world, so much so that they are being called the fiery contender, who could dethrone humble print from the mantle. And sure enough there are converts who are happily reading books on their e-readers, authors who have relented to having e-books published (J K Rowling), and publishers who are launching enriched e-books (mix of text, audio and video) to save sales. Even in India where e-books are at a pretty nascent stage, Penguin India recently announced launching an e-book range. Also, Amazon launched its Kindle store in India this week.

 So, where does that leave the humble physical book?

 Well, if you were to listen to publishers, physical books are going nowhere for decades. Yes, e-books are growing at a fast pace but they are being treated as a parallel economy to paperbacks and hardcovers.

I am no fan of e-books. What I don’t get about this e-book rage is how can one get over the joy of holding a book, of lining them up on your book shelf, of flipping through the pages. As John Makinson, CEO, Penguin Group, once said, “I think, and I think this is especially true in India, people have a very special romantic attachment with the book. They like to browse it, buy it, put it on their shelves, share it.”

I am definitely a romantic when it comes to books. It has been a dream of mine and many book lovers I know to have a library at home. I love rearranging books on the two shelves I have so far, it is such a joy. Don’t tell me I can build an online book shelf. What am I supposed to do with that, stare at the images?

And I am not really a technologically challenged person. I am a member of Goodreads and a plethora of other sites, and I read articles online, only I can’t read e-books.

It’s not that I don’t get the advantages of e-books. I know, I might not find physical books as easily and I may have to pay more for them, but Mr. Bezos it is not inconvenient to turn the pages of a book, it is more inconvenient to rub your eyes over and over while reading an online version.

So, if you are among those who like e-books, great. If not, don’t give up on that library just yet.

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