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Hey guys! Among the many, many dilemmas we have to contend with as new-age parents, books vs Kindle is fast jumping up the charts. And it's a real bummer. If there are arguments against one, there are an equal number of arguments against the other, with no definite answer on the horizon. Bibliophiles swear by the magic of the real print which caters to multiple senses and therefore is that much more personal, while Kindle-lovers cannot understand what the fuss is all about. Why anyone would not choose a cheaper, more portable, tech-friendly, non-bulky option. For isn't it mainly about reading a book, this way or that. So what difference does it make whether it's on paper or the screen? A book, is a book, is a book! Period!
For me, this seemingly endless debate came alive yet again recently when a friend Whatsapp-ed on our Book Club Group asking whether she should get a Kindle for her kids. Immediately there was a barrage of suggestions, some for, some against. I wrote in as well, having made my decision after much consideration as soon as my son entered his teens - that's a year ago. And I must say I haven't regretted my decision one bit. In fact, each day I learn newer and better ways to stick to my choice and make it even more worthwhile. How? Let me tell you...
February 2016: My son was all set to step into teenage and everyone in the family was party planning. Food, cake, friends' list, venue etc were easy to decide. But THE "gift" was a big issue. After much tossing of ideas, the Kindle seemed like a good bet - educational, easy to carry and ideal to keep track of the fast-paced literary world. The perfect companion, in other words, for a 13-year-old!
Twenty-three days later, however, my son was the proud owner of a spanking new Callaway XR Steelhead Golf Set - a gift from his dad; and a bundle of his favourite books, the real deal NOT Kindle - from mom!
The very first thing that tipped the scales for me was simply observing my son doing his homework every day. There was just no escaping the screen. Everything in middle school is on the lap-top - notes, emails, projects, research, submissions, files, Google docs/Slides. School books are totally passe in the new educational system.
Then there is the connectivity problem. Tough luck troubleshooting that away! So the kid may be in front of the screen, often struggling for hours, with not much to show in the "done" column. The strain is non-stop & relentless! Add to it a bit of legit television viewing, a quick check of messages on the phone and a bit of help from some app or the other on the iPad & you have a recipe for disaster staring you in the face – unblinking!
As for problems like portability, bulk and convenience, really how difficult is it to carry a book around? Or for that matter store it in the house? Aren't they cherished treasure troves anymore? I distinctly remember my mom reminiscing about this antique British box of used-books grandpa got her one birthday chock-full of all her favourite novels, including the earliest editions of Mills & Boons.
Price-wise too, ordering online turns out to be quite economical, as discounts and schemes are almost always on and books are delivered wherever you desire. Other extremely interesting developments these days include:
-- online libraries like Ilovereads that pick up and drop books at your doorstep;
-- the growth of community libraries (eg The Library Movement right here in Sikanderpur, Gurgaon and the Katha movement all across the country) that collect books from whoever is willing to share and donate books for people, especially those from underprivileged homes, to relish;
-- the "used book sale" in most schools as part of the CAS initiative - a wonderful way to inculcate the habit of reading and sharing;
-- well-stocked "used books" shelves at popular book stores;
-- the birth of this wonderful initiative called Books on the Delhi Metro - a community of professionals, students, and homemakers, who leave free books, both new and old, at Metro stations for others to pick and read, something like what Harry Potter star Emma Watson did this June, hiding copies of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale across Paris to promote feminism - how exciting is that!
-- innovative ideas like Cafe XOC (Xchange Over Coffee) in North Campus, where you can barter books for coffee and a meal! When the weather gets a little less stifling, I am certainly taking my son for some good old-fashioned bartering. Brilliant idea as he starts Economics in Grade 9!
-- online barter platforms on similar lines like Barter Daddy and Let’s Barter India;
-- quaint book corners in most hotels and resorts for some reading fun in the holidays.
For more inspiration there is our very own: Ananya Saluja (17), a student of The Shri Ram School Moulsari, who recently raised Rs 10 lakh through crowdfunding, to set up libraries across remote corners or Leh, Ladakh! That's one story you've got to read.
And once you are motivated enough, go ahead, form your own book club with friends to make the most of each others' stock of books; collect 'used books' to gift away during Christmas or New Year (a bunch of kids, including my son did just that last December); pass on books in good condition to your own school library or simply hand over relevant books directly to the house help's kids. The possibilities are endless, come to think of it, to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle a precious resource.
That’s why, no more screen for my boy. Books it is -- loyal friends, uniquely portable magic, dreams you hold in your hand, mirrors to the world! Because, you cannot buy happiness, but you can buy books, and that's kind of the same thing! Oh Yeah!