What if traditional books completely die?

A few hours ago, we gathered inside a function hall to meet a very important big boss of the company. One question during the open forum caught my attention.

Will electronic books completely replace the printed ones?

It made me think hard. What if there will come a time when there will be no longer any printed books and everybody has to read electronically? I shudder inwardly.

There is just no way that eBooks will eliminate traditional books altogether. I can’t bear the thought of not being able to get my hands on paperbacks and hardbound novels. No matter how convenient electronic books are, especially the aspect of storage and retrieval system and being able to carry it everywhere as a very light load, I can’t swap the feel of paper on my skin.

I love collecting books- second hand, worn and tattered or brand new, they are all very precious to me. I remember a time during my childhood when my cousins give me hand me down books. My parents never did buy me one, except from a few fairy tales that I misplaced eons ago.

But my aunt and older cousins have a wide array of paperback novels displayed in a couple of shelves. It left me in awe the first time I was introduced to so many varying choices that I must have stood there gaping like an idiot. I got my hand to as many of them as my thirsty mind can manage, wide awake till the wee hours of the morning, sneaking from my mother who’s quite adamant to send us to bed after eight in the evening. I even have enough patience to read torn and frayed books slightly ruined by white ants, nursing it back to a pretty acceptable appearance afterwards.

I love the smell of books. They’re like exhilarating perfume that entices my soul. My favourite hangout place in my school days is in the library, feasting in the midst of books from fantasy, fairy tales to romance, thrillers and horror novels. When I was in grade school, I particularly love the scholastic publications. They are mostly for children and they are thin enough to finish in one sitting.

Then I discovered Harry Potter, and a whole new world opened before my eyes. Suddenly, the thought of witches and wizards aren’t so daunting anymore. I was no longer horrified of the night. As a matter of fact, I love going outside and gaze at the star-strewn sky until my neck hurts, naively hoping for a glimpse of a witch shooting across the moon in her broomsticks. It did not matter much that years ago, the imprinted image of witches in my mind is that of an old woman in a cane, with abnormally large, crooked nose and a black pointed hat. When she smiles, the sight of her decaying teeth sends shivers down my spine and the thought of her curse or her jinx is enough to give me nightmares that will last for weeks.

Not long after, I stumbled upon the romance paperbacks my cousin favours. The very first I’ve read is that of Nora Roberts. It was the second book in her Irish trilogy. Boy, I was hooked. I can’t stop devouring them all.

I’ve read countless of books since then. I love the feel of them in my hands. The smell assailing my nostrils makes me dizzy with euphoria and the ride throughout the pages is spectacular. I explore the limit of my imagination, going to places I can only see in dreams.

There’s something wondrously satisfying in going to bookshops hunting for books. I always find amazing treasures in those places. When I get to buy books that I love, I mark them with a date and my name and buy countless of bookmarks that has became a part of my collection over the years.

I can’t have the same pleasure in the case of electronic books. Yes, you can store them in your phone and bring your treasures everywhere. But you cannot experience the simple joy of seeing them piled in your shelves, smell their exhilarating fragrance and admire the beautiful parchment used in the printing. You cannot appreciate their covers and their illustrations, the feel of the embossed titles and author name and compare the difference of a paperback to hardbound editions.

Traditional books can be stored and displayed, and could last for a lifetime with proper care. And it’s better to imagine that they have souls when they are nice and solid.

Just like what Carlos Ruiz Zafón says, “Books have a soul, the soul of the person who has written them and the soul of those who have read them and dreamed about them.”

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