For the past couple of days I’ve been carrying around with me a copy of The Silmarillion. I’ve been sneaking pages waiting for my much dreaded driving lessons to begin (some people shouldn’t be driving, I’m one of them). I read all about the Valar while in the waiting room of a doctor. When I was studying and living in Athens, every commute was measured in paragraphs. I read half of The End of the Affair in a packed bus trying to escape the traffic jam of rush hour at Akadimias street. I read Adam Bede in a three-and-a-half hour bus ride from Athens to Patras. In a flight from Athens to London I remember reading Stephen Fry’s Moab is my Washpot. My point is: I read. I read a lot and I’ve made my peace with always having to carry around at least one book.
When we choose to pick a book from our bookcase and carry it around for the world to see, this book is a statement. Maybe it’s not wise to judge a book by its cover, but it is certainly safe to make assumptions based on what the guy sitting next to you is reading. E-readers have deprived us of the chance to be nosy and a bit judgemental. E-readers have also saved us a lot of space and potential back-ache.
I consider my Kindle Paperwhite to be one of the wisest buys I have ever made. As a literature student, there were days when I had to carry both volumes of the Norton Anthology of English Literature. Sometimes I would carry the whole volume and we ended up analysing just a tiny paragraph towards the end of the short story we were discussing. Pretty frustrating. Before my Kindle, I used to upload e-books on my smartphone, I gave it up though since my myopic eyes were unforgiving and complaining all the time, which brings us to the glorious day I decided to buy a Kindle. Life changed. I didn’t have to carry five different books for my classes and I stopped printing out academic articles. I had everything in my Kindle.
From a non-academic perspective, it’s so liberating knowing that you have almost 1000 books in your bag. Commuting and travelling are different now. I have many choices. E-books are cheaper and most of the literature I enjoy can be found for free. The Kindle is incredibly light, so goodbye wrist pain! Reading at night has become a true joy since the built-in light doesn’t tire out my eyes and I also don’t need to turn on any additional lights. And yet, I always return to the paperback. The paperback gives me a sense of security. It will never fail me, it will never run out of battery, its screen will never freeze. It’s very comforting being able to see your reading progress. “Oh look, I’m halfway through the book. I’ve read all these pages. I’ve actually accomplished something!”
I never understood the debate surrounding e-readers and physical books. It’s a matter of preference and lifestyle. Some days I go for the Kindle, some days I choose a paperback. But I read, I always read. Don’t let anyone shame you for how you choose to read. It’s not disrespectful to prefer to read on your iPad. It’s not archaic to read a hard cover book. Sure, go ahead, read on your smartphone. Just read.