Εlizabeth made herself comfortable on the windowsill with all those colorful pillows, and let her gaze sway over the unruly waves of the ocean opening out before her eyes. While her ears were being fed by the sweet melody of the piano concert no.2 in F minor from Chopin, she let her shawl glide of her porcelain shoulders. Sipping from her rose tea, she put down her cup and got her…e-reader.
Do you notice something bizarre in this sentence? Then you belong to the 38% of British who don’t care about digital books. But times change. When the e-reader first showed up some years ago, real bookworms’ reactions were intense. “It doesn’t smell like books!”. And ever since, the crusade goes on and on. Statistics, of course, are pretty clear on who the winner is. In 2012, 1.3 million e-readers were gifted at Christmas in the UK. More and more readers succumb to the charms of Kinde, Nook and the like. It is light, handy, cool, and, let’s face it, cheap. While piracy for digital books seems to grow and threatens companies’ profits, along with the lost revenues it looks like we’ve also lost some of our ethical codes.
Books have always been considered something valuable, like a chest full of brilliant treasures, brought from every corner of the earth. A secret currency exchanged between two mystified individuals. Now a book is a screen, with no identity, the magic is gone. Moreover, reading is caught in the frenzy of variety, in this world where you can have as many books as you want, even if you have no time for all of them. When you grow tired of a difficult and demanding text, you will not try to understand what the author was trying to say, but you will just skip to the next book on your e-reader. Unfinished books, raising unfinished people.
Or so we think.
The battle between those who unquestioningly have proceeded to the digital era, versus those who still carry heavy volumes in their bags, is irrational and never ending. It doesn’t make you more of a loyal book lover if you keep dusted books on your desk. And it doesn’t make you less of a bookworm if you choose to go to bed with a screen. By following the change of times, books take a step ahead, inviting those devoted to technology to indulge their selves to knowledge without the feeling of entering a time machine to the past.
No, no, no, no. In the face of modern times, but also in the face of those who insist saying that books will die, my defense is, not the objects, not because they smell good or because you can underline words on them, but people themselves. All those people that go crazy hunting at bazaar, offers, trash, for getting the book they’ve been looking for. The people who, no matter how easy it is to read anything nowadays, they keep paying and loading their libraries. And the people who, after having spent their whole day in front of their computer, by the end of the day they want to enter a different world, their medium not being a screen again.
Attention: I am not trying to be romantic, or place those people above the gadget-lovers. It just happens that they are two different kinds of people. And, while the second species exists, so may the first as well.
So, a cease-fire, please, and let’s call it a truce. Let us just say that we can all co-exist. We can all, in the same carriage, read out of a screen and keep notes on our book at the same time. And next time you sarcastically say that books are dying, give it a second thought. Humans will never be wise enough to stop wars.