Bizhan Govindji on: e-Read all about it!

Amazon's Kindle 3. Picture:

When I was younger, new books would feature heavily on my Amazon wish list. I would read novels on the train, before I went to bed, or if I was simply bored. For me, (here come the clichés) a good book allowed me to immerse myself totally in the story, escape from this world and dive into new ones where Harvard professors run around the Vatican trying to stop terrorist explosions, schoolchildren are taught magic to defend themselves against dark wizards, and Afghani kite-fliers have their lives ripped apart by the Taliban.

Today however, the variety of entertainment that young people have access to has expanded beyond imagination. The evolution of television, gaming, and the Internet captured the interest of youth, and on the whole, books are forgotten, gathering dust in a spare room.

Would you say reading has the potential to broaden minds, spark ideas, and develop vocabularies? If young people are brought up in an environment where reading for pleasure is encouraged, they’re likely keep hold of that hobby, and pass it on to their children. So why are kids today reading less? Will the presence of e-book readers such as the Kindle improve the situation?

Recently a friend mentioned to me that he’d seen a family of four on the London Underground, all reading books. My first reactions were surprise and disbelief. When I thought about what evoked these reactions, I realised that I don’t even remember the last time I saw anyone under 18 reading a novel, let alone an entire family reading collectively. Could this be because young people think of books as simply educational? If so, it’s surely our responsibility to change that perception.

Perhaps it’s unreasonable to expect children to choose to read a book when online gaming is so popular. I’m sure that in comparison to reading, most young people see gaming as a much easier way to ‘get’ entertainment.

"This is the best day of my life". Argos gives 7-year old Aurella her first 50 books. Picture: The Evening Standard

Then there’s the question of e-books: are they a revolutionary invention or a curse that will spell the death of reading, as we know it? And, more importantly, will they encourage young people to read more?

Have you ever debated with friends about whether e-books are ‘the future’ or not? I’m sure an argument that would invariably come up is that e-books don’t give you the physical experience of reading a book; the feel of the pages, the smell, the satisfaction of seeing your bookmark slowly but surely move from front cover to back. But I believe people in today’s society want convenience, and little pleasures like those described above will fade if the alternative lets you carry thousands of books, with the ability to change font and text size, insert annotations and bookmarks, highlight text, and even instantly define a word when you hover over it with your cursor. Going to bookstores or waiting for delivery of books bought online will be a thing of the past, and the eco-friendliness of e-books puts a big green tick in the ‘pros’ column.

Books vs e-Books. Picture:

The above advantages could attract young people to devices like the Kindle, which could (fingers crossed) hugely increase the amount kids read. No longer would we have to endure exchanges like:

‘What did you think of the Da Vinci Code?’

‘It was alright, not a big fan of Tom Hanks though.’

‘No I mean the book.’

‘There’s a book?!’

    Do you own an e-book reader? Or are you one of the boycotters who stare daggers at anyone browsing the e-book section in Currys? If you fancy a friendly debate then voice your opinions in the comments box.

A mind once stretched by a new

idea never regains its original



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