By Ananya S Guha.
People do not read books nowadays laments everyone. It is because of the internet boom, and the emergence of a phenomenon called e books. Everything is on the internet from shopping cafes to books and journals, journals can also be accessed free of cost. There is no doubt that we have e books, e stores, e journals and e everything. So why read the hard copy, everything is ` soft `. These protagonists also rue sadly that children do not read books- a contradiction of sorts. On the one hand is the proud parading of e everything. On the other hand parents and teachers complain that reading habits, especially among children have reached a nadir, and a new low. Children they say are into Face Book, internet gaming and chatting. Even adults, people claim are culpable of such activities, and in the process this is no fillip to the child, to play or to read.And then of course the mobile phone is also bequeathed with internet facilities- the internet is roaming all around and doubly ubiquitous. Very true. But how true is the fact that both adults and children hardly read? With the presence of online book stores, which claim that their prices of books are cheaper, is it still that people do not read books, or for that matter, that book stores are dwindling and receding into nebulous horizons?
This question has an acuity of purpose. For what use is the internet required? Is it only for downloading heaps and heaps of information ? So if there are e papers, what need is to go to the freshly baked newspaper? Or, is the internet needed only to pay bills and fill up the dreaded Income Tax returns? No hard copies will be accepted say government officials. So if hard copies are anathema, then why read ` hard books` ? And what are the soft copies- the moment you take the print outs, then hey presto they are ` hard ` ! The nuanced distinction between ` hard ` and ` soft ` copies, makes things not only hard but recondite…We oscillate between these two worlds, braving in the belief that books and papers are obsolete. The green sheets, the ` notes ` in offices, by the way are still thriving very prosperously! The idiot box has now become cerebral, of course the former will remain for us to know what reality shows are, and how unreal and fatuous they can become!
But the intention of children and some adults is not to get cerebral- their intention is to ` chat ` in the virtual world. Their real world is the computer. I wonder by now if someone has made a study of whether ` adda ` sessions, in College Street Calcutta has reduced drastically? Will anyone have the verve to do such an intrepid study? Or is it that the lap tops are brought into the vicinity of cafes, so that the real and the virtual melt into one indefatigable whole? No, my intention is not be facetious, but to look at the ` mess ` the internet has created despite the much vaunted feeling that we live in a globalized era. But such globalization has not mitigated wars, hatred, insurrections or killings, nor has it mitigated interventionist policies by the so called Super Powers.
The education perspective of the internet is touched upon, especially by private institutions, to teach, but this brings in its wake a good amount of money. The mass of information at our disposal, because of the web, also brings out the predicament of choosing. I once read a news item in Yahoo about sexual harassment in Bangalore, but no newspaper published this news item ! Does it then make this news unauthentic? The will power of deciding and choosing is one of the challenges that the internet juxtaposes.
Going back to the ` luxury ` of reading books- the book, the hard hard copy as an idiom will never perish, no matter how attractive or `gettable` are e books, remember one also has to pay for the paper to download these bland ` books `. Then there are examples of simulating ` classrooms ` on the net. So we still suffer from the hangover of the real classroom. The classroom will not be vanquished, no matter how much we replicate or simulate it.
Neither will the book, the hard hard copy will not perish. But readers will, bad luck for them, and we will remain a sadder humanity!