Tuesday, 9 June 2009


“To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.” - W. Somerset Maugham

We have come a long way from the Mesopotamian clay tablets on which cuneiform script was incised. We have much advanced from the laborious making of papyrus and the artful hieroglyphics of the Egyptians. Even more progressed than the parchment of Pergamum on which Greek philosophers wrote their elegant Ionian epigrams. We have left the gorgeous medieval manuscripts behind us, and we have much refined Gutenberg’s invention of the movable type. And now, with all the advances in printing technology, we have books, books and more books.

Beautiful tomes, printed on fine paper and illustrated in glorious technicolour. We have all sorts of books that are published and printed with amazing speed and serving all purposes. Pamphlets, tracts, technical manuals, novels, textbooks, advertising and commercial booklets, works of fiction and non-fiction. Cheap and nasty publications or elegant volumes, long tracts in black ink on cream newsprint or illustrated glossy pages on shiny white paper. Books in Braille so that even the blind can read effortlessly like the sighted.

However, we see today the burgeoning of another kind of book. The electronic book or e-book, which is making itself increasingly visible around us. Have you seen someone on the train reading a novel on their iPhone? Perhaps someone chuckling over a humorous book on their Palm or SmartPhone? Or maybe you spotted someone using a Kindle and catching up on some homework, perusing their recommended electronic textbook. You yourself may have downloaded a book from the multiple sites that are on the web and which offer free e-books. For example:




I must say, that on the train, I am guilty of reading my e-book on my phone. It is so much more convenient and much more portable than the paperback. I am not the only one. Many of my fellow travellers do the same. And the readers of the paperback look suspiciously at us and frown into their printed paper pages and say silently: “Hurrrrrmph!” And we just smirk and read on, while peering into our phone screens and don’t deign to say anything at all, silently or otherwise.

Technology is wonderful and now with the advent of electronic paper, shortly, we shall be able to have even more convenient and light and portable electronic books. Nevertheless, I do keep on buying proper books… There is nothing like reading a printed book, turning the pages, luxuriating in the look and feel of the printed page; e-books or not, my allegiance lies with the legacy of Gutenberg. Long live the book! Printed (and electronic)…

What about you? What do you think about e-books? Do you love them or hate them?

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