If you’re one of those who consider books as your most prized possessions, good for you. But if you are also one of those who looks down on ebooks and audiobooks during the Covid-19 lockdown and don’t want anything to mar the pristine nature of your ‘dead tree books’, you’re a book snob. And I have news for you, you will have to let go of this snobbery if you want to read, because ebooks are the future of reading.
The coronavirus pandemic is altering everything as we know it and the publishing industry will be no exception. With a significant proportion of the population under lockdown and only essential services allowed, several people are turning to ebooks.
So, dear book snobs, your day of reckoning is here, thanks to a pandemic.
Here are five kinds of book snobbery that should (and hopefully will) go out of fashion post-Covid crisis.
The book hierarchy will be dismantled
Many people have scoffed at those who carry a Kindle or prefer the ebook version to, say, a hardcover. Aside from the fact that these people need to be worried about more important things, they will be forced to eat their words because, in light of the pandemic, the ebook version may be the only form of book immediately available.
Ebooks and audiobooks have been around for quite some time — the digitised US Declaration of Independence was the first ebook, in 1971 — but they still occupy the lower rung in the book hierarchy. For those who prefer “the feel of the book” and think that ebooks are too “plebeian”, this pandemic is going to be a rude, well-deserved, shock.
Even during ‘normal’ times, when a deadly virus is not wreaking havoc, books are not exactly cheap. This is where ebooks and audiobooks are actual champions. Relegated to the margins, they serve those themselves in the margins. Only the privileged can enjoy hardcovers, limited editions, and glossy paperbacks.
Also PSA: If audiobooks were not a thing, you would not have been able to hear actor Daniel Radcliffe read out the Harry Potter books on Spotify or Ruskin Bond reading out his short stories on All India Radio.
An end to the ‘intoxicating’ smell nonsense
All book snobs are annoying, but there is one variant that is insufferable. Those who talk about the intoxicating scent of new books or the pleasure of leafing through yellowing pages of old novels. They limit the wide potential and power of a text to their mere physicality.
Also, might I just add, fetishising books with that particular vocabulary is quite disturbing. As writer Amanda Nelson quite brilliantly put it, those who love the old-book smell are essentially saying, “my favourite perfume’s base note is mould”
Hopefully, with a lack of physical books, we will be spared these comments.
‘Evil’ people buy books off Amazon
Supporting your independent local bookstore is a good thing, they need all the help they can get. But judging those who buy their books off Amazon or Flipkart is not. The discounts that these sites give help a lot of people afford these books — not everyone can actually afford full-price books.
Now, due to the pandemic, these very people will be flocking to Amazon and other e-retailers to buy their books and e-books considering the strict lockdown.
Don’t you now wish you had actually invested in that Kindle instead of lamenting how it corrupted the ‘purity’ and ‘sanctity’ of books?
Only classics and prize winners are worth reading
A characteristic feature of book snobs is that they are snobbish about the books they choose to read as well. Give them a Haruki Murakami or Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and they will wax eloquent about your literary taste, even though no one actually enjoys the latter and few are even able to finish the mammoth novel.
But God forbid you mention the ‘popular books’. Nothing short of a Pulitzer or a Man Booker will do for these people, relegating all other types of as too conventional.
However, we are in the midst of a pandemic and in acute shortage of things that make one feel good. So who knows, even these book snobs may be compelled to go back to the warmth that books like Harry Potter or Pride and Prejudice offer.
Book snobs, it’s okay, download that PDF and smell the freedom.
Views are personal.