According to the International English Institute for Language Studies, “A book is a medium for recording information in the form of writing or images, typically composed of many pages (made of papyrus, parchment, vellum, or paper) bound together and protected by a cover.” However, it should not take one long to understand that this definition of a book is a bygone tale. Having a material existence is no longer a need when it comes to being a book. A book no longer requires to be between two physical covers, and yet it can be covered from cover to cover. According to the book titled Oxford Companion of the Book co-authored by Suarez and Woudhuysen, “An eBook (short for electronic book), also known as an e-book, is a book publication made available in digital form, consisting of text, images, or both, readable on the flat-panel display of computers or other electronic devices.” As per research published by Pew Research Center, “Thirty per cent of those who read e-content say they now spend more time reading, and owners of tablets and eBook readers particularly stand out as reading more now.” They further noticed, “In a head-to-head competition, people prefer eBooks to printed books when they want speedy access and portability, but print wins out when people are reading to children and sharing books with others.” Though one cannot overlook the pleasure of having a book with physical pages in hand, one must acknowledge that the possibility of carrying a library with you wherever you go and that of affording books that only a few had access to is awesome and a dream-come-true feeling, to say the least. Gone are the days when to read a book one was sometimes required to travel thousands of miles to a library. Now, the same is available at clicks of fingers. If you own a Kindle or any other electronic book reader, you have the potential of owning not just books, but libraries. You have the access to some of the rarest masterpieces that humankind has ever produced. It does not matter whether you read on paper or on some device as long as one is inclined to reading. For J. K. Rowling, “We should be delighted people still want to read, be it on a Kindle or a Nook or whatever the latest device is.”
Those who remain rigid in the choice of printed books over the electronic ones fail to appreciate that it is the content and not the material that matters. In the words of Douglas Adams, “Lovers of print are simply confusing the plate for the food.” One must not miss the forest for the trees. Jocularly, eBooks can help save some trees in the forest too. It might astonish the readers that nowadays some books, magazines and newspapers are available only in the electronic version. It is somewhat tickling to imagine the fate of printed books had they come into existence only after the invention of eBooks. There would not have been very good reasons for choosing the print over the electronic. In the words of Mokhonoana, “If eBook readers were invented before print books, the smell of ink would have been some people’s only reason for not abandoning eBooks.” When it comes to reproducing copies similar to the actual one, eBooks are unbelievable. Remember that if you own a printed book, reproducing it is costly and difficult. If you have an eBook, you have not one but as many copies as you seek. You can gift your eBook to a thousand people and not need a return. You can provide access to awesome stuff at no or low cost. You can lend a book without ever needing or losing your copy of the book. Those who have a craving for reading books; those who are bibliophiles know well that the problem is not the physical or virtual, the problem lies with passing the material for the content. In the words of Laszlo Krasznahorkai, “Devices are not dangerous for literature. People can be dangerous for literature. People, for example, who do not read.” Those who are or will be filled with the reminiscence of the feel, the smell and the pleasure of printed books will hopefully not regret the option of turning to eBooks for the pleasures- the ease of access, the availability and the benefit of being light on pocket-they offer. The print lover will soon be inclined towards the electronic love for the temptation is hard to resist. In the words of Craig Mod, “Nostalgia is very quickly replaced with convenience.”With the advent of eBooks, one is no longer required to lick the tips of one’s fingers to turn pages.
(The author is an Assistant professor at Government Degree College Sopore. Views are his own)