Whenever I tell people that I read books from a tablet, I almost always chance upon someone who is a serious reader — the one who enjoys the process of holding a book, smelling the paper and turning the pages. They register in my brain as “serious readers — who love reading a lot more than I do”. I never dispute that. Besides, there is nothing that can parallel the physical book experience unless you accidentally find out that a small black coloured rectangular miracle can delay the process of an apparatus that balances itself on your nose bridge! And, I was no exception. But first, the story about how I discovered this rectangular miracle.
It happened a couple of years ago. I was travelling in a local train in a foreign land when I encountered a new breed of aliens. They read books from lightened screens. Till then, I had only seen people bend their back over books. I was fascinated. I imagined the possibilities — more books, less space came to my mind. I smiled at the digital marvel, but then I had to find out — could it ever outdo the experience of a book? I had to find my allegiance — was it going to be a screen or paper? I wondered endlessly if embracing the screen meant not loving the book enough? Liking digital books meant a willingness to renounce the pleasures that a physical one gives — like the scent, the colourful cover, the printed words that dance in joy as they sail from page to page, hunting for bookmarks and many such things. So I stalled the idea.
However, I couldn’t stay off the digital lure for long. Soon, I succumbed to a discount sale. I held the small rectangular screen one warm evening and began to explore. Reading was easy. I could play with the backlight, increase the font, look up for meanings — the possibilities were endless. Finally, I had done it. The world was within a click away. I could buy books without moving an inch from my bed! What’s more, I could wickedly smile at the glasses that I refused to wear. I was hooked.
Then something else happened. I found an old popular book peek out of the bookshelf. It has an orange cover with lovely mountains on the horizon. There was a tug in my heart. With my gadget I can never ruminate over the book cover for endless hours. When I used to read those books, I would take them with me everywhere I went — to my kitchen, my living room, garden.
My new companion
The book covers gave me company. Sometimes I would just turn it over and read the little blurb on the back cover and I always looked at the bookmark that peeped out telling me how much I had journeyed through the book. My new companion does not give me such luxuries. When I switch it on, it takes me to the exact spot where I left off.
So when I found this particular book peeking out, I grabbed it. I took a deep breath and slouched into my favourite couch. As my eyes lingered on the words, I noticed that the words blurred around the edges. I pinched the page to increase the font and soon realised that it was not possible in a physical book. I began to look for my glasses.
I searched everywhere — on the nightstand, the kitchen counter, the living room, the corner where all the newspapers are stacked and as I looked, I found my new friend inviting me with a nice picture of a fountain pen on the screen. I picked it up, downloaded the book, increased the font and read it. Well, books are undoubtedly great, but my new friend doubles up as a magnifying lens. Doesn’t it save trees as well? No wonder I settle to read from a tablet from time to time.
Sudha Subramanian is an author and freelance writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @sudhasubraman.