Make a Choice – Paperbacks or E-books? – By Fahmida Mehreen
Books. Words and pages. Imagination and illustration. Ink and paper. And, so many more ways to view a single element of human life. Going by the straight forward bookish or dictionary definition of a book – ‘a written or printed work consisting of pages glued or sewn together along one side and bound in covers’ or ‘a bound set of blank sheets for writing in.’ Book is something we use in our daily life. Text books, story books, workbooks, message books, magazines, and you name it! It isn’t only required for reading or acquiring knowledge. It is also used for making notes, taking reference, or even maintaining a journal. So the form and purpose of book is extremely vast and it cannot simply concise into few words or any hard and fast definition. It varies from person to person, use to use.
As a 90s kid, I grew up reading a lot of books since the choice of entertainment back in those times was quite limited, unlike today. Regular and easy access to television with satellite connection was a much later thing. Computers were rarer. Maybe one in twenty house had a computer, that too with specific few default games like Minesweeper, Solitaire, and maybe a couple of more installed games like Roadrash and Virtual Cop. So, with such limited choice of fun indoor activities, reading books was a good option. Of course we had text books which was a must read, otherwise how would we pass in school! But that aside, we could spend a lot of time reading story books of different languages and genres. Popular English books were by Disney, Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, Agatha Christie, and many more acclaimed authors. Among comics were Archie’s, Betty and Veronica, etc. Coming to Bangla books, there were excellent offerings by Jafar Iqbal, Humayun Ahmed, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Satyajit Ray, and the list goes on. Based on age range and choice of genre, people used to make their selections. Buying books, reading it, sharing and exchanging books with brothers and sisters, cousins, neighbors, was a common practice. People used to bond over books. Chatting about the best parts of a book over a cup of tea on the rooftop in late afternoon – magnificent sensation and glamorous scenario.
For book lovers and literature enthusiasts, things haven’t changed. People still go around the city to different book stores such as Bishwo Shahitto Kendro, Pathak Shamabesh, the recent times Bengal Boi, the evergreen Nilkhet and New Market to buy books of their choice and check out new releases. Needless to say, the yearly Ekushey Book Fair brings a tempting hype all over the country. The smell of fresh pages, the feel of ink on varied textured pages, and the crunch of the fold – it is all like a magic. As a reader, fondling with the books seems like a union between the reader and the books and works like a pledge. Such is the beauty and charisma of reading a paperback.
On the flipside, the wave of development, modernization and digitization has carried us far and beyond. One does not have to go from store to searching for books, because it is only a click away. The popularity of E-books started to rise from late 2000s with the launching of Kindle, an E-book management device that looks like a tablet. The attractiveness of Kindle started from the west and gradually entered the market in the east. At the same time, with the courtesy to accessible and better speed internet people could download books in their personal computers and laptops. Then came another big wave – smartphones, which sort of grasped the whole thing. Everything was in your grip. There were free book downloading applications i.e. apps with which you could download a wide array of books and read from your phone; which meant you no longer need to carry a big fat hardcover or even a tablet because the book is in your pocket. You can bring it out anytime and read. The ease of availability and accessibility made E-books popular among the youngsters. Starting from trending magazines to old classic novels, everything is available on the internet which only takes a few minutes to come on your phone. Then why make huge wooden shelves in the house to store books, why dust the books every now and then, and take the trouble of physically carrying the book as you read. Many e-books come with the option of audio as well. In that case, just plug in your earphones and listen. It can be very fascinating too! Like storytelling.
Nonetheless, there are pros and cons of everything. E-books have become popular over paperbacks among the young crowd. The elderly citizens, however, still prefer the orthodox style of holding a paperback and relaxing on a rocking chair with a cup of tea and biscuit by the side as he or she reads a classic novel by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay. It is hard to convince them, and even more, to make them adapt to E-books. They just do not take it as their ‘thing’. Therefore, no matter how much in-demand and in-trend E-books are, paperbacks will never go out of date. There will always be a part of the city where you can smell old papers and hear the crispy noise of flipping pages of a colossal collection of books from different era, along with latest releases. The excitement of getting a newly released book from a book launch and having it signed by the author will never fade away. And that is something E-book cannot offer. Even if you get a signed softcopy of the book, I must say that the sensation of watching the author sign your very own copy of the book, yours only, is irreplaceable. Now, the choice is yours. Paperbacks or E-Books?
Fahmida Mehreen is an aspiring writer.