Embracing technology over tradition

3 min read

I would describe myself as an avid book reader. Books have always been a big part of my life since childhood. Reading has always offered me a refuge from reality, an escape into an imaginary world where I could be anyone but myself. I have spent years if not all my adult life passionately defending the fact that an e-reader can never hold a candle to a real book. Simply put, the weight of a book, the comfort it offers, the feeling of leafing through the pages, and even the musty odor of a library book, contributes to an experience that is deeply personal to the relation of a reader with his book. During 2015-2016, I read 65 novels, all borrowed from the Toronto Reference Library, which was a stone’s throw away from our apartment. This year, 2020, I managed to complete only one book “Educated” by Tara Westover. Also, now I am a mother to two young kids in a world knocked over by a pandemic.

Like many things unthinkable and incomprehensible before 2020, I am embracing technology over my tradition of reading books only in their hardcover or paperback forms. Once, my husband and I were discussing what we should grab in case of a fire, and I instantly said that we should first pick up our son, grab the signed hardcovers by Salman Rushdie, Marlon James, and Yann Martel, and then we should be good to go. As you can imagine, we deliberated animatedly for some time on what I considered essential vis-à-vis the essential. That was 2015. Now, fast forward to 2019, there was a fire that required us to evacuate our building at midnight. I remember picking up our sleeping baby, packing jackets in a grocery bag, grabbing the files containing our passport and other documents, taking our six-year-old by the hand, and walking out into the night through a smoke-filled corridor as the alarms blared and red lights lighted our way. Time changes us all.

This year, I often borrowed books from the library but had to return them unread. Also, while I had the borrowed library books, I had to keep a watch on whether my toddler thought it fun to sit on it, or stomp on it like a dinosaur or even my worst nightmare, give it a good lick just to sample its taste. One can imagine with COVID redefining our access to the library and our self-imposed restrictions on where we venture out and what we bring home; borrowing books, picking them up, and reading them while averting attacks by a hyperactive two-year-old became too much of a strain. Thus, like I have adopted social media to stay connected with family and friends, even neighbors whom I have not seen in months, I chose an e-reader over a book as a gift for my birthday. If you are based in North America and choose economy over sentiment, then like me you too would be willing to wait for the Black Friday deals to finalize your birthday gift.

I am pleased with my choice, which is a Kobo libraH20 and allows me to access the Toronto Public Library through the Overdrive app. It also has a backlight that allows me the flexibility to read at night, after the kids go to bed. The reason I decided to splurge on this model as opposed to the popular and affordable Amazon Kindle e-reader, was because I intend to borrow e-books and not buy them. The Toronto Public Library is truly one of the best in the world and they are gradually building up their e-book collection. I will continue buying books every time I attend the Author Talks & Lectures at the Appel Salon of the Toronto Reference Library. Books that are timeless and I want to own will also find a place in my personal collection. For now, an e-reader is the new normal for an old-fashioned book lover like me, when the choice was between reading e-books or not reading at all, I made my peace with the former.


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