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No more abibliophobia: All thanks to technology

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Rajani Choudhary
Software Developer, avid reader.

I drop yet another book halfway unfinished with no intention of finishing it. I have got quite selective in what I read, dropping books in between when a book fails to interest and inspire me.

A colleague recommended a book by the author, “Haruki Murakami”. I instantly placed an order on amazon; seems so convenient today. You want to read something; then order it and have it delivered within a week; or receive immediately on Kindle. This is the one I plan to read next.

There are millions of books to read, why waste time on the ones which do not engage oneself?

Once upon a time many years ago, I read everything I could get my hands on; there were not enough non-academic books to read. I got jittery and nervous when I was on the verge of finishing a book. There were withdrawal symptoms. My biggest concern- what am I going to read next? I had to go hunting for the next book I would read. Usually it would be anything I could lay my hands on by means of exchange or borrowing. It meant eagerly waiting while my friends finished reading before they would lend or exchange. Growing up in a rather small town my book woes were three-fold.

I went to a school which did not have a decent library substantially restricting my access to good literature. Books were precious and expensive. My school was wary of lending too many books for fear of them getting lost or not returned. Once I was given the responsibility of cleaning the school library. I spent two days doing that. I got sick from dust allergy, but those were two very happy days.

The town I lived in had but one good fiction book store. This served as more a hangout store for young people. The store stocked gift items, birthday cards, albums and such fancy stuff fas well. There was a British library in the town. I had no idea how to get membership or if I was even eligible for a membership. In general, memberships needed some beaurocratic strings to be pulled.

In those days, the Indian middle class did not spend on non-essentials. Books were not an essential commodity. Any non-academic book was definitely not an essential and could be lived without. Reading was considered a “good habit”. However, any non-academic reading was not considered fruitful towards preparation for a stable career, therefore was not encouraged.

These facts are also indicative of the fact that the town lacked a literary culture among the general populace. That meant that access to second hand books, which could be procured cheap, was also limited or practically non-existent.

The silver lining, if one can see that, to this situation was that the lifestyle of those times left little time for reading fiction. The distractions of today were still not known; but we lived in joint families giving us much less individual or alone time. The focus on academics was high as is today. Career options, for which reading non-academic books would help much, were not as popular as they are today.

My personal acceptance for e-books came after a prolonged struggle. It cannot compare to the feel of a book in hand- the design, layout, the jacket, the cover, forwrard, authors bio at the end. And all the paraphernalia which indicated that the moment you open a book, the world we live in fades into background and another alternate universe is created. It was hard to create the same universe with an e-book.

Technology has the most perceptible impact on my reading habits. Reading multiple books simultaneously, opposed to one read at a time as was my habit, has become a norm for me. It used to be quite often the case that I had certain titles in mind, but did not have the means logistically (and otherwise) to procure them conviniently. This situation certainly has altered. Notwithstanding the negatives and drawbacks of ebooks, the comfort and convinience it has brought to me is enormous.

I possibly belong to the last of the generation of Indians who have seen and experienced the comparatively claustrophobic pre-internet days. My kindle refreshed and “Murakami“ downloaded and waiting for me, those days seem far away.

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Rajani Choudhary
Software Developer, avid reader.

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