Books Are Meant To Be Read

Would you prefer a book with dog-eared pages and scribbled notes within, or a pristine new book that’s so well taken care of, free of any traces that is has been touched, let alone read.

The allure of physical books, to an extend, has been over-romantized. Sure, nothing can truly compare to the tactile sensation of running your fingers through the pages, taking in the unmistakable smell of paper. And, you intently feel like absorbing the knowledge by the virtual of ink on paper, flipping them ever so delicately.

E-books, on the other hand, represent a dilemma. We yawned for the convenience of carrying books in a slim package, never to worry about them weighing us down. We longed for something that can replicate, or be as close as the ink rendered on paper. We know that reading on smartphone or tablets for extended period will never be truly comfortable. A device called Kindle appear to be the solution. As with every category-disrupting product, it is bound to divide opinions. There is sure to be resistance, reluctant to even think or try. “E-books can never be like the books of our time, where we didn’t have to worry about running out of battery or downloading the books.” I too, tried to hold the physical medium forte for as long as I could. I cast an eye on people holding a Kindle in the train – though part of me envy the portability of this handy device. I never thought I could fall in love with something I so strongly opposed. But that’s what exactly happened. Kindle has now become my ideal companion, so singular in its approach – so simple, so great.

I thought about how the battery life is grossly over-calculated, where such time are only achieved in a controlled environment or benchmark test. A couple of books read, a couple of weeks in, the battery on my Kindle are yet to run out, and it’s good for at least a few chapters more. I’m pleasantly surprised. Equally surprising is the way it has become part of my daily essentials, whether it’s on the road or on the bed.

I was never an avid reader until I was twenty-two. Books used to bore me, probably because the only books I read were textbooks and assessment books. But abundance of time led to boredom and to alleviate this, I turned to books. It was “the lonely planet story”, and it took me months to complete. But these months of start-stop reading ignited my interest in travel and books. I have always been a magazine person; gobbling up publications like Maximum PC, Atomic and Monocle. Magazine joints are my friend, while books are like foreign entity. I love bookstores, only for its peacefulness and the obvious magazine section. If they didn’t have a quality curation of magazines, I would likely give them a pass. the lonely planet book showed me how books can open up my mind, transport me to a alternate reality and plant a seed in me, only to see it really manifest in the future. Come to think of it, had the smartphone revolution took place when I was left so much free time, so little company and so bored, books never stood a chance. The always-connected, ubiquitous device would suck away every fragment of time. While World of Warcraft was virtually my real world, away from the computer I’m newly-converted books person. I like the way books made me feel more cultured and studious, however marginally (or not).

Today, I still buy plenty of physical magazines – Kinfolk, Monocle, Offscreen any many others. Far too much than I can read. In my Kindle are many samples I got it off Amazon, and a book called “Being Mortal” I’m in the midst of finishing. There are many unread articles in Instapaper, many more bookmarked in Pinboard that are worth revisiting. Not discounting that there will be more discoveries via Flipboard, Facebook, Twitter and RSS feeds. It’s never-ending, nerve-wrecking experience of news consumption. But this is not about the addiction to news and updates, because that deserve another more thorough analysis into the habits and functions of what they actually serve. For now, the balance of physical and digital medium shows I’m equally at ease with both.

Allow me to quote Rebecca Solnit, for her beautiful phase inspires me to write about this topic. “The object we call a book is not the real book, but its potential, like a musical score or seed. It exists fully only in the act of being read; and its real home is inside the head of the reader, where the symphony resounds, the seed germinates. A book is a heart that only beats in the chest of another.”

Indeed. A book not exist for being kept in the shelve. A book is meant to be read, as a platform for knowledge to be exchanged, for minds to be enlightened and hearts to be opened. Dog-eared or not, it lives on beyond the tangibility of the pages that hold this wisdom.