Sunday, April 3, 2011

The end of books

Binaya Ghimire

Of late, my reading habit is changing from turning the pages to touching the screen.  Now, when it comes to reading I opt for eBooks. They can be easily downloaded. Sometimes they don’t even cost you money—the only thing you need to have is an active internet connection. And eBooks are easy to store—they don’t hog space in your room.

I inherited my admiration for books from my father—I buy books, I read books, and I don’t let a chance go to waste whenever there is a book exhibition or sale. My childhood ambition was to grow up and traverse the land my dad had travelled, read the books my dad had read, and learn the things my dad knows?

I never believed that anyone would remain famished or wear frayed apparel just to be able to buy books, as my father said he had done as a student. One day I waited for him to come from the hospital with loads of medicine, but instead he popped in with a stack of books. It’s true that buying books can be akin to an addiction and in some cases, with rising prices, it can be quite serious. Traditional publishing—words printed on paper and the pages tagged and bound in a cover—is getting costlier day-by-day. The days are gone when you could buy a couple of titles, even those from foreign publishers, for just Rs. 500. These days that amount of money means nothing when it comes to purchasing books.

We won’t stop reading even though books are getting more expensive. So what to do? The answer lies on the cheaper technology of publishing that is emerging: eBooks. But it will take time in Nepal for publishers and a greater mass of readers to opt for eBooks.

I have been buying books since I was in kindergarten—I even saved my pocket money just to buy books. It wasn’t that my father didn’t buy his children any reading material, but I wanted to visit the book store myself, see the colourful covers and wonder who wrote all these works and who has read all these titles. Since the school I attended had no library, the only library I had seen was my father’s personal collection, and it was very small compared to the books stores. There was a bookstore on the corner in Anamnagar that sold Russian children books translated into Nepali and English with colourful pictures. I could buy books for just two rupees each. The bookstore was on the way to my school, and I managed to sneak a peak every Friday. It was my favourite hangout until it closed (USSR had collapsed). Later I found out that the man had been selling Russian books which the Soviet government distributed for free. To satiate your palate for reading you have to buy books. Of course, you can always borrow from the libraries, but collecting books brings a great feeling.  However, in the changing times collecting books is becoming an expensive hobby. The cheap and handy solution: the World Wide Web.

source: The Kathmandu Post, 1 April 2011