Let me start this piece by renewing my vows to books, whether old fashion paper type or new digital ones. This love for books makes me believe in multilateralism. Because I learned to embrace lots of changes in my life lately, I surprised myself by how flexible I really am. As I always consider myself a devoted and loyal man, I never thought that my love for paper books would ever be shared with anything else. To understand my newly discovered multilateralism, you must accompany me to the near past.
My father was a very big fan and collector of books. He had what people described as the largest individual library in the country: about 75,000 books on all subjects, different languages and kinds. He used to pile up these books at home to categorize them before moving the biggest portion to his office, while still keeping a good number at home to decorate the walls. First, I hated those things matched on shelves and hanging on my bedroom walls. After a while, and out of curiosity, I started to open some of these books to read a few lines. Then, I started to take a book or two with me to bed as they helped me sleep. Shortly, these books became my travel companions. I do not know if, like me, you can now differentiate your books by their smell, the feel of their paper, the colors and designs of their covers and the sound they make when, for the first time, you open one. But my best feeling is when I finish a good book and contemplate the changes that happened to it: it becomes thicker, the pages turn yellowish and it now contains words that make sense only to me.
When the first electronic books entered the scene, my dilemma started. I tried to accept this new trend but couldn’t. Even when using the internet as part of my job, and I started researching and reading journals, articles and blogs online, I could not feel the comfort I felt when reading paper books. I even created an online account with e-book providers to satisfy my curiosity and try to disprove my antipathy for the new books model. Yet, I was not convinced and could not find any reason to start surfing the e-books wave. But little by little, the appeal of virtual books started creeping up on me. They have a different allure, they are more agile and are attractive, … like a top model. They are available with one click, barely take any space and can be printed anytime you want. As a result of this new understanding, a question popped up in my head: “could I keep my ‘Mona-Lisa’ paper book (‘Mona Lisa’ the famous painting by Leonardo Da Vinci), and enjoy my ‘Sophia’ e-book (‘Sophia’ the first humanoid Saudi Arabian citizen), at the same time?”. At the time, that question had no clear answer; the thing that really pushed me to adopt e-books was my postgraduate education. My distance learning degree was the main driver because all my studies were based on e-books, online resources and scholar journal articles. I still felt that I was a bit biased towards my first love. Until lately, I agreed to a high extent with Ms. Felicia Johnson when she said “I guess you can call me ‘old fashioned’. I prefer the book with the pages that you can actually turn. Sure, I may have to lick the tip of my fingers so that the pages don’t stick together”. This feeling lasted until the start of the year of wonders (2020). The restrictions imposed by the Covid 19 pandemic, the quarantine and the curfew boosted online activities and businesses and schools considered the internet as a savior. Individuals had to stay at home for their safety and the safety of their families. In these dark days I became fully convinced by the benefits of e-books and, in general, by the “e” that precedes many words nowadays. But have I betrayed my “Joconde” (the Frensh name of Mona Lisa)?
Throughout my readings a simple quote made me realize that I was confusing things, and not focusing on the core. What really matters is not the ornament but the valuable item it is holding. I must thank the late Mr. Douglas Adams for saying “Lovers of print are simply confusing the plate for the food”. This quote explains everything and made me accept both versions of books for the knowledge they provide. Mr. Adams, your famous line is now printed on a A4 paper and hanging in front of me. It is also saved on my laptop as an e-copy to remind me why I love reading so much.
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