Every other person seems to flaunt an e-book reader. Does that mean physical books that come packaged with dream, smell, memory are on their way out? A reality check reveals that it isn’t so bad yet

The greatest impact of the availability of electronic tablets, e-book readers has been on the publishing industry. Kindle versions of books are becoming more and more popular, especially in urban centres. Are paper books being impacted by the rise of their electronic counterpart? Are e-books here to stay, and going to replace paper books soon? Is the fun of ruffling through the pages of a physical book soon going to give way to a future, where one just flicks carelessly across a lit digital screen?

Mahithi Pillay, a media professional does not think that the digital wave will impact printed books. She contends, “I don’t own a kindle or an ebook reader, but have in past read entire books on my phone using basic file-reading apps. I have also read books on the pc. I will always choose the physical version. Apart from the sensory and sentimental reasons for my choice, it is very difficult for me to stare at electronic screens for extended periods of time.”

She adds, “I love everything about books -- the way they smell, the ways they are designed, their beautiful typography and illustrations. The story also flows the way the author intended it. The inventive cover designs also work more in the physical form than on a device. I loved Jerry Pinto’s Em and the Big Hoom for that very reason -- it was a thing of beauty, inside and out.”

Geo Joseph, an ad executive concurs. “Books are better to hold, touch, feel... And there is something about the way a new book smells that a Kindle would never be able to match. The smell of the book is vital part of the reading experience. The digital version is very impersonal. Collecting a trunk of books is a story in itself.” Shruti Sharma bemoans the lack of intimacy that scrounging through a bookstore brings about in book lovers. “If you own a kindle and read regularly, you will hardly visit bookstores. I feel that the best books are discovered by accident in bookstores. I picked up an old tattered copy of God Of Small Things from a small second hand bookstore in Bangalore in 2000. That book made me fall in love with reading.” She adds, “Moreover, it is difficult to exchange books in electronic format. If you have a physical collection, you can ask your friends to get more books and so on.”