Printed books, e-books or no books?
“Why the switch to e-books?” was the question posed to Mahwash Kamal, a double major in defence and strategic studies from the Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) and education from the University of Melbourne. Her response was “I was an avid printed book reader and I switched to e-book reading a few years ago. Reading printed books though undeniably more satisfying, involves putting in more time and energy than simply reading online.”
Many Pakistanis who still embrace the habit of reading – such as Kamal – have begun to refrain from purchasing actual books due to the fact that it is easier to access a variety of online books within seconds through reading apps such as Wattpad.
The proliferation of electronic devices and wireless connections has also taken a toll on the amount of time spent within the four walls of a library. Pakistanis – especially teenagers – prefer to go through the plentitude of articles available online from the comfort of their bedrooms as opposed to venturing into libraries and surrounding themselves with piles of research documents.
It is for this reason that even some of Islamabad’s prestigious high schools lack functioning libraries, which are well stocked and available to the students all through the day.
What else can be expected when nowadays reading tablets such as Kindle serve as the most portable of libraries; libraries which can be carried with utmost ease in the pockets of their owners.
The preceding point was further accentuated by Mohaimin Zafar, Barrister at Cornelius, Lane and Mufti.
He shared a personal anecdote of how despite the fact that he had not made the complete switch to e-books yet, he could not deny that online reading is by far more convenient.
“I cannot help but appreciate the accessibility and convenience of having each and every book available just a click away. Reading online also allows me to save a lot of storage space as now my shelves will not have to bear the burden of bulky books”, he elaborated.
It was indeed a pleasant surprise to find out that in recent years some teenagers have actually shown a preference for printed books over online reading. There is no better feeling than the one you are subjected to when you crack open a book, take in the distinct scent of an old book and allow the words on paper to do the talking, they say.
Naba Nasir, currently an O Level student at Roots International Schools gives her reason for opting for hardcover books over any other, “I like to have a collection of books. The feel of an actual book coupled with the familiar scent of an antique or a new book is rather soothing.”
Hijab Kashif, an A Level student of Lahore Grammar School also forms a similar opinion.
She although acknowledges that e-books are relatively less costly, claims that the physical touch of the coarse surface of each page is exhilarating and makes printed books worth all the money in the world.
“Our children do not read!” exasperated Riffat Mushtaq, a frequenter to a local bookstore when approached with the question as to why she thought the youth of today remained oblivious to the profound benefits of reading printed books.
She provided an explanation for her assertion by stating that reading has seen a drop in recent years due to the appeal of the internet.
“The younger generation has a plethora of intriguing and engrossing novels at their disposal yet they fail to appreciate this blessing,” Mushtaq added.
Interest in books pales in comparison with social networking apps such as Facebook and Instagram. Such sites are quite literally the Pied Pipers of this era, luring the current generation towards the virtual world,” she said.
The aforementioned claim can be proven correct by the fact that as of February 2017, Pakistani social media accounts have crossed the 44 million mark, according to the statistics offered by social media companies.
This brings into consideration the fact that instead of printed books experiencing a downfall, reading as a whole may be on its way to becoming a dying hobby.
The claim that printed books have gone on the back burner was made concrete after visiting two old book banks. What once used to be a magnet for aspiring students and staunch readers was now eerily empty. The owner of Old Book Heaven admitted that even though customers between the ages of 16 and 23 did buy the occasional novel or two, most of the books that were sold were indeed part of school coursework.
Keeping in mind the disparate opinions and varying preferences it can be deduced that the future of reading – especially that of printed books – is rather uncertain in Pakistan.