Nepal | February 28, 2020

Demise of books

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PROF SHIV SETHI

My nephew had turned four this last March. It was time to secure him admission in one of the schools – a new English medium school. As we approached the school to meet the principal, the latter boastfully said that he was all set to usher in a paperless education system based on the foreign model. His idea could have convinced some elite of the town to send their children to his school.

But I had turned painfully pensive. “Are we heading towards an era of the demise of books?” In this age of technological advancement, indeed our reading manners and modes have changed drastically.

Unlike our school days, today paper-books have been replaced by their modern e-counterparts. With this transition, perhaps the pleasure of reading has almost lost its previous sheen. I still grow nostalgic about my childhood days when my father would fetch a storybook once in a while for me. Over the years, this regular practice not only made me a voracious reader but also a bibliophile.

The fragrance of the paper would tickle my senses and spontaneously draw me towards its source. Sepia turned pages due to the ageing process had their own complexion on which each carefully enshrined word would bustle with life.

Perhaps this could be an impelling reason why I had always dealt with words in a sensitive manner. The district library of our city is also on the brink of its extinction. In the absence of other means of amusement, reading was the chief delight for the people of my generation.

The famous English Book Depot of our city also used to be a popular destination for reading lovers. But it has also witnessed a similar fate. With the arrival of a click-away e-books, the book stores find the rarest of rare takers now.

I am only able to fathom the depth of this unpalatable transition when the other day I am proffered an unsolicited advice from my techno-smart niece.

Seeing me holding the newspaper in my hands, the child chips in, “Barey Papa, why don’t you read the e-paper on my laptop?”

She also suggests downloading the e-dictionary on my phone instead of looking up the words in the bulky paper dictionary.

Truly speaking e-books, e-papers and e-dictionaries may have offered us easy access to the reading material, but they have certainly taken a toll on the quality of reading and reduced a completely cathartic pleasure to a mere mechanical activity and a bland affair.


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