A book traitor

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“If you live way outside of civilization (but still have good enough reception to download books) or are constantly traveling and don’t have a home address, I can see owning an eBook reader” – Zac Bissonnette Business Times.

I bought an e-reader yesterday, because I will be travelling for a couple of months with 23 kgs and don’t have rooms for books.

Inside my "favourite" bookstore in Paris "Shakespeare and Company"Otherwise, I am really conflicted, e-readers go against everything I believe in. I love books and flipping pages and having a library and there is nothing like the feeling of closing the last page when finishing a book. Furthermore, being a huge fan of used books and used bookstores, I really don’t think that e-books will save me any money. Instead, my money will be going to Chapters instead of the local independent used bookstores. Even worse, their thousands of free e-books section is actually not that huge and rather arbitrary. I might not need to pay for English classics anymore, but chances are , I already own a lot of them.

In short, I feel like a book traitor, it feels like I almost betrayed something or more an ideology. In theory, it is not a big deal, I have no room for books and being an avid reader, in the next few months, I will probably make some good use of the e-reader and later on, I will come back and it wouldn’t be as important, but someday on a trip, it’ll come in handy again. But I am still conflicted.

For a starter, I was sold into the consumerism trap and convinced myself that this e-reader is actually a good idea – good enough idea to spend $90.00 on. While I did make a point of buying an e-reader only, one that doesn’t have many functions in addition to a dictionary and wifi connection to download the books, I know that this is just another disposable electronic  device – a  result of capitalism that is on its way to render our daily lives a disposable matter. I also know that soon enough this is just going to lose its battery and become an old, worthless, piece of non-recyclable materials, unlike a book that tends to have more value as it ages.

On a much more complex level, only last week, I was standing in the midst of piles and piles of wanted and unwanted stuff while attempting to move my apartment into my aunt’s basement and embark on to the “no fixed address, living out of a backpack” journey. Among this pile were bags and boxes of books, some to give away and others to keep. It was a daunting process – as moving tends to be (which I am still processing and will save to another blog) – but I specifically needed some time to part with my books and that was a tough one.

Perhaps, some of my discomfort comes from the fact that this e-reader is replacing a life-time relationship, I’ve had with books that I bought from my favourite used bookstores from around the world, books that were given to me as gifts from family and friends or better yet books that I kept from my grandfather’s library, some more than half a century old. This disposable device will never look, smell or feel like a book, it won’t have a sentimental value (especially considering the resentment I have towards it now), or a story associated with it. The words of those books will always be separated by a screen and disappear into the virtual world as soon as I am done with the page which is no longer defined as a page.

As I sit here, looking at my still unopened e-reader, I cannot help but be excited, despite everything, to reading all the Dostoevsky and Thomas Hardy that I want, while being resentful of the fact that I won’t be able to pull out my marker and highlight my favourite passage, and in a very bizarre way that hurts.

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4 thoughts on “A book traitor

  1. A very interesting post. It is also one of the current issues right now that intrigues me very much. I’ve read from a newspaper a few days ago that we don’t actually own e-books. They license them to us but they can take it away anytime. As a passionate reader, I find this unacceptable. Although I don’t want to be narrow-minded, in fact, I read e-books often (especially now) but still, there’s nothing that can compare to the feeling of having a physical book to read.

    I hope that physical books won’t one day become obsolete. That will be a nightmare for me, but I still find myself fairly embracing the technology of e-books. But they need to work on the property rights on that one.

    Thanks for sharing this post.

  2. I am working this from both ends–as a reader who loves the physical presence of books and as a writer who is imagining all the possibilities that the concept of an e-book offers. One being that potentially I can cut out dealing with the publishing industry if I decide to do so with certain texts. The other–oh my–what can I connect my text to visually and audibly–as in creating my very own soundtrack for a book? Hmmm. So, how are you treating the e-book reader and how is it treating you?

    • I totally see the benefits of an e-reader in that sense and I love that I find all the classics on it for free. I used a lot between November and April of last year because I was travelling and I didn’t bring any books with… It’s been closeted for a while, will pick it up again in a few months when I am on the road!

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