I was first introduced to them at a book fair. Yes, the irony, I know. I had picked up a bunch of Wodehouse novels from a stall and was waiting for them to be billed, when the cashier asked me: “Madam, why don’t you Kindle these?”
As a person who still lived in the age in which kindling meant burning them, I must have looked puzzled, because the cashier immediately transformed himself into a walking advertisement for the company Amazon that markets the e-reader. He was armed with brochures and a sign-up form for a promotion. “Just sign this madam, and you’ll get all these books for free.”
Being impulsive as I am, I signed up, copied down a website address he gave me and went home, remembering only then an important detail. I didn’t have a Kindle reader. Not ready to give up on my new e-reading quest, I quickly went to Amazon’s website, only to discover that there was more than one variety available. They all differed in terms of colour, functionality and, more importantly, price. I couldn’t explain to myself why an e-book reader had to cost nearly Rs. 15,000.
I ordered one anyway and waited impatiently for it, cursing myself for heeding the shopkeeper’s advice, but for which I would have finished the Wodehouse books days earlier. At last I downloaded the e-books to the Kindle. But just when I started reading, the stubborn thing shut itself down with a ‘low battery’ alert.
This, it seems, was just the tip of the iceberg. After charging, the device was hot, not too hot but still uncomfortable for my hands. The brightness, though adjustable, is a menace. It is either too dim or too bright. Yet, what surprised me the most was the fact that my son not only finds e-book readers to be quite trouble-free, he also prefers it over real books.
I am certain e-book readers are here to stay. What saddens me is that with their increasing popularity, the chances of seeing real books only in museums increase too. Tomorrow e-books may become popular, but as of now a lot of people still prefer real books.
Real books, which come with their sweet smell, soft paper and beautiful binding. For everyone confused about whether to switch over, my advice is to wait a bit until e-book readers evolve to a more developed state and are better than they are today. Till then, I’d say print is mightier than pixel.