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E-Books: Changing the Ways of Reading

By Sarral Sharma
From Sri Venkateswara College, Delhi
Posted May 12th 2013 7:00AM
I still remember my mother joking with our relatives and amusingly quipping how the load of my schoolbag, crammed with zillions of books, was way more than my body weight. It was a time when the lives of students revolved around printed books, with most of us delicately draping our school texts in brown and plastic covers, stamping varied colourful name slips on them and then flaunting it to one another. There was a kind of magic attached to the books for every one of us. Even now come my birthday, my friends and parents saddle me with hardback novels and history books. And such fascination is true of millions of people my age or older than I am. But my thirteen-year-old niece is perplexed at what she calls my love for "fat ladies".

She tells me, "I simply can't fathom why on earth anyone could bear toting around burly printed volume of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, especially when you can just easily read it online and that too without any back-breaking weight. She is not alone in holding such views; her penchant for e-books is demonstrative of a paradigm shift from print culture to a large community of readers who finds digital books more desirable owing to their easy portability and multiple other benefits. The idea of e-book took its hold in Indian markets a couple of years ago and has since made a steady growth in capturing a pool of book lovers, ranging from school students, and college-goers to bibliophiles in general.

E-book is a version of a traditional print book that can be downloaded from internet onto small, portable devices such as i-pad, Kindle, Mobi and Nook etc. It is equally readable on one's PC or laptop. The notion of digital book is a revolutionary concept and stands in stark option to old hard-paper culture. An e-book reader device, as opposed to the thick volume of a printed book, weighs simply anywhere from twenty ounces to three or four pounds, and to top it all it is capable of storing hundreds of books without giving you a bother about space and weight. Another advantage it has over hard-paper books is that nowadays many digital books are available for download for free.

One factor that has nudged the growth of digital-book market in India is the introduction and subsequent popularity of Tablets which are available at affordable prices. Tablet introduction has bumped up the potential consumer base for e-books. The rising popularity for digital books is palpable in the fact that the Delhi Book Fair 2012 had e-books as its main theme, with hordes of online publishers; each with its own different programme, from all across the world showcased their ideas at DBF. Publication houses such as Aleph and Penguin have decided to bring out ebooks of all releases.

Readers have reacted favourably to this new format of reading, with the younger generation really lauding the idea of digital books. "E-books are a boon for everyone, primarily because you don't have to lug around heavy texts to colleges. Everything can be downloaded to a tablet and that's it" opines Pratibha Rana, a B.Ed student at DU. Garima Kaushik, English Postgraduate from St. Stephens, makes an interesting observation- "I only buy e-books. It's my bit for protecting our environment and trees. No Paperbacks, less number of trees will face the axe."

However, such zest for digital books is not shared by everyone. Nikita Ahluwalia who is a voracious literati, still holds print editions close to her heart. "I grew up reading paperbacks. Their smell is something that keeps me reading on and on. E-books don't have such aura about them. I would rather stay with my old habits." It's undoubtedly true that a feeling of nostalgia is in the air and many are still, though they do use digital formats, sticking to printed texts. However, it's equally true that e-book phenomenon and its market is and will experience a surge in India and many other developing nations.
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