Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Kindling memories

Many readers still refuse to acknowledge it: “I like how my books look, feel, smell and sound when I turn their pages.” They even put up arguments that make a lot of sense: “Where are authors supposed to write their name at book signings?” They may even call you an ADD afflicted traitor: “You’re a traitor to literature and you’re afflicted with ADD”.

You see, I’ve been trying to sell people on the idea that E-Readers are way better than physical books. I’ve got my sales pitch down so well that if Amazon heard me, they’d start paying me commission for every Kindle I helped sell. It goes somewhat like this:

“Hey, do you like reading? You should totally get the Amazon Kindle 3 man. It’s light, extremely portable, uses E-Ink and goes 30 days on a single charge. No kidding! I got mine in November, read two whole books and haven’t charged it even once.

“You can also make notes as you go along, create bookmarks and it comes installed with the Oxford American Dictionary so you don’t have to skirt around difficult words anymore. Why don’t I loan you mine for a couple of days – you’ll love it. It’ll be like a free trial, just like those sample books you can order from Amazon. No? Why don’t you download the Kindle app on your smartphone – it’s free on the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android. You don’t even need a Kindle and they’ve got a great selection of free books…”

But truth be told, I’m on the fence myself. Think of it like this:

It takes a week to build a bookshelf and years to assemble a collection. But the first time you slide and release the power switch on an Amazon Kindle 3 and you’re never the same again. It’s coming, isn’t it? The eReader revolution that’s going to make paperbacks and hard covers obsolete.

Every morning I wake up and look at my book collection. But I don’t see mere ‘objects’ or vast resources of knowledge printed on felled trees from the Amazon forest. I see the years it took to find the perfect collection of plays by Moliere (Vintage). The fear and excitement of sneaking The Satanic Verses past airport security. My Mum, sick in hospital with not much to take her mind of the pain but a present from a visiting friend – Harry Potter, the boy who lived.

A person’s bookshelf is not a collection but an ocean of memories with notes to yourself, dedications from friends and if nothing else – wrinkles from the many times they’ve been read. But it’s inevitable (like success); its evolution (Mumbaikar’s breathe in smog guised as fog every morning!); and it’s here. In my hands.

It’s an E-Book reader with E-Ink that’s light as a feather and doesn’t require me to lift a finger to turn the pages or press the spine down with the other to flatten it out. But am I ready to sell my memories from the last 26 years for a mere gizmo I’ve known for less than two months?

Sure, I think. But not until I find a balance. Or until I hunt down all the authors who have yet to sign my books. Mr. Murakami, you’re next!

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