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Dear book snobs, your day of reckoning is here. And it took a pandemic

Those who looked down on digitised books are being forced to rethink their stance during the Covid crisis and lockdown. Ebooks are the future.

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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.

Also read: In era of Chetan Bhagat, Netflix & Twitter celebrity, the undiscovered author has lost

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.

Also read: Why vinyl records, paper books and glossy magazines will never go away

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.

Also read: Cassette tapes are back – but it’s not about the music

‘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?

Also read: Apple’s got a ‘Netflix for magazines’ now but publishers aren’t jumping with joy

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.

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  1. There’s something that I don’t think most people realize, you might pay for ebooks, but you don’t really own them.

  2. Hi Rachel,

    Looks like you hit us through your “keyword” research. And the so called Headline that attracts readers…

    But, you failed to gauge the book lovers love for books, mostly physical books. Trying to read some kindle books too ( A 2900 / 3000 odd physical books to 230 kindle books !)

    Most book readers read physical books out of sheer love, more like the Japs love for work, or their perfection, in anything they do. What is a book lover, if can’t digress…

    The love for reading a physical book will endure all taunts or ridicule…suffice to say, you too read books…kindle or physical…

    Heal thyself…with the wisdom books have wrought on you 🤗😍💐😌

  3. Ironic that you use the word snob so frequently while sounding like a stuck-up one yourself, Rachel <3

    Instead of your article being informative it only stands to put down the group you're advertising to.

  4. Lol, you’re such a hypocrite. You are a snob yourself. Why do you hate physical books? Did someone hit you in the head with one? I’m so sorry that you need to direct so much ill-will towards the sanctity of books. They have lasted thousands of years and will continue on while you continue to lament.

  5. Dang, girl, who hurt you? Some people are really into physical books and that’s okay. Some people really like Haruki Murakami (who also writes short stories, and has plenty of books that aren’t “mammoth” sized, and his few “mammoth” sized books are enjoyed by plenty of people… but I digress) and that is *gasp* also okay. For someone complaining about how people can be snobs about their hobbies and interests, you sure sound like a snob, and also a bit of a bully.

  6. Oh dear Lord! An article on ‘book snobs’ by someone who is, ironically, a snob herself. This part: “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,” shows how out of depth you are while writing an opinion piece properly. An opinion is not free from the punity of actual data, or facts if you will.

  7. Rachel may be in for a surprise. The physical book will be back, once the libraries open, or the e – retailers resume their business. A habit which incorporates layers of emotion and psychological triggers, is hard to break. The so called snobs might go for the e- book in the short term, but return to their love once everything is back to normal.
    Coming to the scent of a newly printed book, or the old yellow pages ones, it should be remembered that smell is a very powerful trigger of memories. This being the case it is no wonder that smell does give an emotional fulfillment. On this point it can be argued that though food is essential for survival, it need only be nutritious, without any need for taste, presentation and smell. Well you can imagine where this will end.
    This has become a long comment, as I belong to the snob dinosaur group, and felt the need to justify.

  8. I lost my entire library in the Camp Fire of 2018. It has been a nightmare trying to find replacements for the most special and most loved books that I owned. But I will never buy a kindle or download books. I may be a book snob but I will only buy physical books. They bring a sense of calm to my home, a feeling of comfort that can never be achieved with digital books. Keep your kindle, but know that the physical book will live forever.

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