E-books, p-books coexisting in digital era, says Muneeza Shamsie
The advent of e-books and e-readers in this digital age has definitely affected the reading patterns of people. Still, the era of printed books, or p-books, doesn’t seem to be over.
Author Muneeza Shamsie made this point on Saturday evening as she spoke to a gathering organised by the Readerscafe at a coffee shop in DHA Phase-V. The title of the talk was ‘English Literature in the Digital Era’.
The changing times have altered the attitudes of the readers in the digital age, said Muneeza. She started her talk with her memories of her childhood, when she was fortunate to have both her parents as avid readers.
She said her father did not approve of the American literature she loved to read and insisted that she instead read classics like ‘Robinson Crusoe’ or ‘Treasure Island’, which she did not like.
“I wonder what my elders would say about the Nobel Prize awarded to Bob Dylan,” she remarked. Coming to the current age ruled by the internet, she said it brought great utility for readers in many forms, such as audiobooks. Muneeza said that one of her uncles had to turn to audiobooks after he lost his eyesight.
Talking about her internet research she undertook a few years ago, the author said, “I found articles that were suggesting that there was a need to redefine the word ‘book’.” According to those articles, she added, “book” no longer denoted only text printed on pages bounded in a cover.
Discussing the change in trends of book reading across the world, she mentioned that she knew some of the bookstores in the UK had to shut down in the recent years but there were many others that were thriving.
Regarding the convenience of e-books, Muneeza said she could order any e-book and it would arrive in seconds, but she was not sure if the dawn of e-books had signalled the end of traditional ones.
Once, proliferation of films was also considered a threat to books, she remarked.
She added that the internet had increased the availability of books for readers and mentioned websites such as archive.org and gutenberg.org from where one could easily get free e-books that have fallen out of copyright.
The internet has also helped readers choose the right books for themselves, as there are a large number of book reviews available online, the author commented.
However, she closed her speech in favour of p-books as she quoted a recent article of journalist Zubeida Mustafa in which she has written about how avid a reader Bill Gates is.
As the floor was opened for general discussion, one of the participants shared her experience of eventually finding a book, which was published in Dhaka in 1954 and which she had been searching for many years at local bookshops, at a tech giant’s e-commerce website.
Another woman remarked she never had the tangible feeling of a book whenever she read something on the internet or on an e-reader, but this didn’t seem to be the case for her child. Most of the participants agreed that the educational system in the country was not conducive to the development of reading habits in children.
It was also brought up that the general family environment of Pakistani households doesn’t inculcate the hobby of reading in children because they don’t find their elders reading at home.
As the talk was about to end, one of the participants asked Muneeza what she had done to raise her daughters, Kamila Shamsie and Saman Shamsie, as writers. The speaker replied that she just let her daughters be themselves.