Touchy – Feely: A comment on eBooks

Tapas from Flipkart left us a comment on Shweta’s post.
It did merit a post of its own. Thanks Tapas!
The most evident of all is the Tactile aspect of it. Just the interaction with the object … all the while maintaining the distinction between content and medium (or form and function!).
eBooks win brownie points vis-à-vis the environmental impact (eWaste is the lesser of the two evils). No printing ink or paper, that’s a sure plus. All the more, when you consider their application in technical fields, or text-books. With subject matter so defined and print cycles so regulated, schools and universities have realised the advantages of migrating to eBooks (in the West, of course).
They are also a fantastic medium for the differently abled, the visually impaired or the aged. Devices that you don’t necessarily have to hold or where pages don’t have to be “flipped” (in the traditional sense), something that can read aloud books to you (yes there are audio books, but may not be available in your area of interest).
eBooks and their devices bring a different sensory/tactile experience to books, just as say an iTouch or an iPhone brought to music players and cellphones. Or like when a couple of decades ago, people in the Mumbai local hung out (literally) — one hand on the door-rail and the other clutching a transistor — so as not to miss the cricket commentary. Now you get a radio that fits in your pocket, with stereo headphones. That this radio can also double up as a cellphone is a miracle. Perhaps so also with eBooks and their readers, eventually.
Before I digress any further, I will pop thinkmaya in and concur with. Vinyl > Tape > CD, in that order. I spend a lot of time hunting down LPs of tapes I own and Cds I own (some of which are of the tapes I own!) I still shoot 35mm film, with cameras manufactured in the 60s.
I cannot take to eBooks, because some part in my head refuses to believe they are real. I have to own every book I’ve read, an OCD of sorts? They need to be sitting on my bookshelves (a nod to Choxbox), because perhaps as someone suggested, “They are the intellectual equivalent of notches on bedposts”, and then helpfully pointed me to The Whore Of Mensa.
And to quote Umberto Eco quoting Roberto Leydi in the “How To Justify A Private Library” essay [when asked if you’ve read all the books on your bookshelf] … “And many more.”
Books are travel companions, and fittingly, I use bus/train/airplane tickets as bookmarks. I have even once used a movie ticket as a bookmark.
Bookmarks are probably other things, in eBook readers.
If I own an eBook reader with 1500 books in it, I may not be able to lend someone one book. I will have to lend him/her the entire library, with the room. And everyone knows, some people borrow libraries and forget to return, sometimes even lose them.
As opposed to the Dead Tree Format, my books will need batteries and charging. Books needing power supply, ha!
I’m not one to make notes in the margins or underline sentences, but I do so once in a while. Not sure it’ll happen with e-books (I’m sure there’ll be one with a fancy Stylus soon enough).
And all the other hazards that come with electronic devices. Water and Fire will damage both equally, but at least the DTF won’t catch a virus (bookworms and silverfish and termites, yes. I stand corrected.). But, it won’t need a sofware upgrade!
I cannot justify this long post, so I’ll say this.
In a country where more than half are illiterate, straddling the poverty line and living with no electricity, ebooks is putting the cart before the horse.
Giving Dead Tree Book access to a majority of the geography, better still, teaching reading to a lot of the geography, is an idea worth spreading.
Writing this on the Pratham Books blog, well, that’s preaching to the choir.

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