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eBooks are weightless, can be easily uploaded, transmitted and downloaded, are searchable for and in, and changeable from one file type to another, one print size to another, even one rotation to another. Yet they have two singular weaknesses: one, reading them burns the corneas over time, losing eyesight and thus much of life's jauntiness, and, they are never the same as holding paper books in the hand, feeling the grain of the paper, remembering the smells of the print inks like those of yonder day Beano and Dandy paper comics. Maybe it's because reading and thinking about something is more than just mentally translating words and figures into thoughts and analysis so that the process must necessarily involve some physical activity as well like being able to turn the paper, sense the 3D physicality, sip the West Lake longqing, rub the eyebrows slowly, and so on. Of course when reading racy novels, the process can move faster. Like watching a thriller on screen as the sentences become animated by imagination into scenes and strokes akin to the celluloid film rolling rapidly from one frame to another in technicolor and sound.|
Paper books on the other hand are physical life's last bastion of sanity. They don't try to flamebait you with nonsensical spews or hurl ad hominem attacks on you because they are moody or can't win an argument or fail to present their facts coherently. They don't try to show how low is their thinking, how absent their culture and upbringing, how vituperative and vindictive their character. Yes, paper books are silent partners in the great unhurried journey towards wisdom and knowledge and culture, free from the effects of full moons, open to mutual understanding and friendship forever. Why, if they could be animated, they won't even bully or sanction you or close their doors from sharing themselves with you knowing when you have benefited from their goodwill you will return the favor to them in more ways they cannot imagine today of what can be tomorrow.
Yet paper books have their weaknesses too. They can be heavy and difficult to move around, take up too much space, and to them will take time and effort; hard to upkeep and costly on the environment by wood to make them and for shelves to parade them, they get sulphurated by the air easily so that those white pages turn jaundiced and sad. Meanwhile phillistines like silverfish will be busy eating their spines, the pages will fall off so that you will miss a few of Capablanca's best games, especially the ones where he had quietly built a defensive wall only to unleash a devastating and definitive counter-attack in the end, all the more seemingly with ease.
Do both have a common weakness? Yes, once there are too many of either, the eagerness to read falls as more and more accumulates and one starts to procrastinate like Buridan's mule not knowing which stack of hay to go for in the syndrome of paralysis from excess. Is there a solution? Of course. Pick up a copy of Taschen's Living In Bali. Kick off the shoes. Curl up in the chair and admire the photos. Transport by sheer imagination oneself into the pages and enjoy the escape to a more rustic world where everything is in its natural place bringing a sense of intrinsic comfort, hearing the tweets of birds in the foliage, the gurgle of clear water over earthern pots, the quietness and silence and cool peace. Except for those mozzies. Then progress to Kourdi's The Big 100 but a few pages at a time and think hard on them, Kontes' (rip) The Ceo, Strategy and Shareholder Value, then finally Lee Kuan Yew's Hard Truths which applies to all of SEAsia. After such a regime, the love for reading and learning and insights will return. Until the next episode of Game of Thrones.
Lastly, reading is about books but books are only part of an ecosystem of learning. For books to be written, there must be authors with ideas and facts. For them to be produced, there must be producers and printers. For them to be sold, there must be bookshops and libraries to hold them.
What has happened is that all these elements of the ecosystem is being given an upheaval by the arrival of technology and portals. What has happened is that the bricks-and-mortar bookshops are facing challenges. Unless they are big chains and thus can go on based on economies of scale and big data analytics of their customers preferences and reading habits, the smaller independent ones are facing the full onslaught of online sales by just the click of the mouse in the comfort of one's armchair. One way of overcoming that in the west has been to make more book sales tapping into author events. Book authors are invited to present themselves in the bookshop or some assembly hall, and as they meet curious readers, the books on display get rapidly sold, furthermore without any commission to the authors who are happy with the free publicity.
It remains for me to say this and put it on record that i KNOW:
Thank you, Motherland.