The past few years I have bought more books on Kindle and Amazon than I have from a book store. As much as I loved the feel of a real book, when an e-book was merely a click away, it was a temptation hard to pass up.
I took care of my need to physically hold a book too by joining the legions of Flipkart and Amazon lovers and soon began to order discounted books that arrived at my doorstep in corrugated boxes the very next day. It all seemed so thrilling, almost like some book loving deity had deemed that people who liked reading finally deserved to experience instant gratification too.
As I went about adding books to my cart and book shelves, I got a little greedy along the way and began to order far too many pending reads at one click. This did not necessarily translate into me reading more but it did mean that my bookshelves began to overflow and I had to create space for my books in less decorous places such as the powder room and bathroom. Agreed the print size was less than satisfactory at times and eyes approaching middle age must value big font size over most other parameters that go into the making of a good book, but I was willing to take my chances at that price.
While I had reservations about Kindle to begin with, given how attached I was to the concept of physical books that had to be smelt and felt, I succumbed eventually because it made night-time reading possible for me. Kindle helped me to hide under the covers roshni deta bajaj ad style and engage in this offbeat style of bedside reading, because some of us are married to people with rice paper eyelids, who get disturbed by the slightest light in the room.
When I traveled outside of India and discovered new books by local authors in stores such as Waterstones, Hatchards and Kinokuniya (the latter two are book stores after my own heart) I promptly checked the local Amazon prices and triumphantly ordered them online too. This went on for a while until one day, I realized that most other people at these stores were also doing the same thing and walking away without buying hardly anything at all. It hardly felt fair that we were squatting on their carpets, leaning against their walls, sitting on their sofas and browsing through their books only to callously give business to online stores.
Back in Bombay, Danai, a much-loved book store in my neighbourhood had already shut shop and given way to a garish jewellery store that I resentfully turned my nose at each time I drove past it. But such developments sadly were a hallmark of our consumerist times and there was little one could do about it. As much as I was blaming the generation of snapchatters and instagrammers for not reading enough, it occurred to me that I too was complicit in the death of bookstores and maybe I could do something about this after all. Dania was gone but one had to ensure Kitab Khana and Crossword were spared a similar fate.
I write this post as a reformed woman who has been buying books at book stores both in India and abroad (ignoring the exchange rate) with full gusto. The thrill of taking a book home, one that I have just fallen in love with after reading its first page, far outmatched the thrill of receiving it at the hands of a delivery boy. Online book stores, lets part as friends, it was good while it lasted. I may still have to turn to you in moments of desperation and I need you to know you were great.
It isn’t you, it’s me.