Books, Weirdness

The End is Nigh

This really happened. With minor variations.

*  *

“I heard you were leaving the hermitage, Bahu.”

“Yes, I am, Anant. I will miss you, and you too, Ugra, and all our friends, but I have had it. I cannot take our teacher’s stupidity anymore.”

“Bahu, that is harsh! Our teacher’s methods are strange, but he means well, you know it.”

“He means well? Is that why you are making excuses for him, Ugra? Instead of teaching us the sacred verses just as his teacher taught him, and his teacher’s teacher taught him, he wants to try out these barbaric methods on us. Writing? Are we stupid that we cannot remember what we recite in the mornings? Did my father scribble symbols on barks of trees instead of committing all the sacred verses to memory? I do not like being taken for a fool, Ugra, and I would rather leave this school and join another, instead of submitting to this madness.”

“Bahu, our teacher has valid points. The merchants that travel here beyond the seas, they write everything on stone tablets. Their knowledge is timeless, it cannot be changed by forgetting a word here and there. And besides, think of the time it would save if we could just read and refer to what we had written the day before, or last week, or a year ago, instead of trying to remember every single thing we have learnt over the years.”

“That is the way it always has been, Anant. All these foreign traditions, we accept them blindly without understanding the long-term effects. I, for one, do not want my children to recall Vedas by reading them. They should know the sacred chants by heart, Anant, just as we do. Besides, these pieces of bark, they stink of sap and dampness. How can you even bear to be near them? They make my skin crawl.”

* * *

“Have you seen this monstrosity, Simplicio?”

“Ah yes, the German and his madness. I cannot believe the Holy Father allowed such a thing to exist.”

“Look at the thing. Look at it. So disposable. So…so common. Vulgar beyond belief. Can you imagine someone wanting to possess something like this? Put something like this up for display, in their homes? I would rather spit on something like this than want to own it.”

“Sagredo, have you seen the codexes in the Malatestiana? Such perfect little wonders. How can something produced this way recapture the beauty of a hand-written parchment?”

“And the smell, Simplicio. Smell it. This reeks of machinery. No aesthetics, no personality.”

“I hear it’s become fashionable to own them nowadays. Last I heard, Salviati was thinking of getting one too. Ho, Salviati, there you are! Come here, will you?”

“Simplicio, Sagredo, what up, bitches? Oh. OH. Is that what I think it is?”

“Yes, my uncle got one yesterday, I took it from him just to see what the fuss was all about. As far as I can see, it’s hardly the wonder it’s made out to be. I hear you’re getting one too?”

“I am. Oh yes, I am. I pick mine up in a few days. Thirty florins well spent. Quite the demand right now, especially among the nobility, but I know someone who knows someone. And a copy’s been reserved for me. ”

“A tedious fad, Salviati. You will soon realize that you threw your money away, money you could have spent on a real book.”

“No, you don’t get it, you guys, this is the future. Not your tedious parchments. This will bring knowledge to the masses, mark my words. This changes everything.”

“Sure, sure. Well, you and the teeming masses can keep your Gutenberg Bibles, Salviati. We’re off to the Malatestiana, and then to the Abbey. That is how books are meant to be read, in the company of like-minded people. People who know how to reproduce books, who understand the toil involved in creating a copy that captures their personality. Books are meant to be special, Salviati, not mass-produced like clothes..or…or furniture.  But it’s tiresome having to explain it to you print-enthusiasts and your ‘democratization of knowledge’ spiel. Mark my words, print will never catch on.”

* * *

Dear e-reader/iPad/Kindle-haters,

“Real books smell so good” is not an argument.




4 thoughts on “The End is Nigh

  1. Shruti says:

    OH GOD THANK YOU FOR THIS POST.. I am seriously tired of explaining to all my bibliophilic friends why e-readers cant possibly be the bane of the literary world… :-|

    • Yeah, I sort of pissed off at people turning their noses up at e-readers and audio-books. Content is everything, as the failure of the music and movie industries have shown us in the last decade. Everything else is just familiarity and nostalgia.

  2. bv says:

    On the other hand, ‘e-books make my eyes hurt’, is a valid reason to disdain e-books. Not that I am one to talk, given that I would happily read bytestreams if only I could upgrade my hardware and wetware.

    And as for audiobooks, I hate being shackled to the pace of the reader, and I find the inability to scan a big problem. On the other hand, I am listening to a significant amount of radio podcasts from bbc these days (mainly while walking or travelling by bus), which is something I probably wouldn’t have done a year ago. So, technology wins another round.

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