‘Booked or not’

There’s nothing that beats the physical act of holding a book and reading says Sushmita Sarkhel

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“My earliest – and also perhaps the happiest – memory is that of my mum and me lounging on a sofa, reading. When we’d travel to Calcutta, India during the summer, we’d go to this particularly well-read street vendor once a week and spend a good hour or two skimming through books. “Not more than two,” Ma would tell me firmly each time. But we both that it really wasn’t going to happen.

Fast forward 20 years and the street vendors have turned into large, upmarket bookstores, yet my love for books remains unchanged. So much so, that when Borders at MCC shut down a few years back, I went on a massive book buying binge. It’s just not the physical act of holding a book and reading that’s so appealing – but the entire process that goes into buying one. Spending hours flipping though books…moving from one shelf to the next… reading the prologues (maybe even the endorsements)…and once you’ve finally purchased the book – taking a good whiff of the pages! Bliss!

Now compare it to buying an e-book. The entire process becomes so banal. Then there is the question of what after I’m done reading? How do I bug my friends and get them to read it as well? (I’ve virtually assaulted people with books, just to get them to read.) Also, books don’t run out of charge, or give you a mini heart-attack if you accidentally drop them… and finally, good luck trying to read that Kindle in your bath!

Neither a borrower, nor a lender be. Discover the joys of reading an e-book says Rekha Balakrishnan

Times, they-are-a-changing! From a tree book lover to an e-book lover! A long-haul flight changed my perceptions to a large degree. When strict baggage allowance meant I had only one book on what seemed to be a never-ending flight, I started flipping through my iPad. On the book shelf were a number of PDFs that my son had downloaded. They were in fact, the entire Agatha Christie series.

I flipped one open… Hercule Poirot’s Last Christmas. It was my first e-book… I snuggled into my seat to discover what the experience was all about. The font was good enough and with a touch I would go back, forward, zoom in and zoom out. This was cool. And I settled down for a dose of murder and mystery. Not bad. Really.

Before I landed at my destination, I easily read another e-book. On touchdown, I couldn’t wait to get to the nearest WiFi hotspot to download more of them. Soon I was buying books – some of them I had read in childhood; also magazines and newspapers and my favourite Archie Comics. Martha Stewart’s Good Living, I discovered, looked gorgeous on my retina screen. I was hooked, to use a mild word.

A journalist colleague showed me the Kindle which was even better because of the outstanding bargains! But that would have to wait for now! I turned to Android and found there was an app that offered 10,000 plus free e-books. In an instant, my Galaxy Note turned into an e-book reader. Talk of practicality! Yes, sometimes I do miss the tomes! With space being a huge constraint in rented accommodation, not many bookstores in Muscat and high prices, e-books really do offer me the luxury of reading without any added appendages. Like pestering people to return the books they’ve borrowed.

My reading life couldn’t have got any better!