E-books and Their Death Sentence on Paperbacks

Reviewed by Christy Chua
Written by Nooraishah Karim
In the era of e-books where convenience comes at no cost, print has been said to be dead. This includes one well-loved item, books.

I remember the first time I picked up my favourite novel. The smooth feel of my first ever book and its entrancing photo, the rush of adventure and the urge to finish the story. I read that book at the age of 11, titled A Twist Of Fortune. Reading was my form of escape. Had a bad day? Read. Wanted to avoid homework? Read. Trying to look hardworking in front of your mom so that she does not nag at you? Read! Reading helped me escape my mundane life and sent me to another dimension where I was with orphans finding their only known family member across the world.
Alongside books, bookstores were another form of escape. Thinking back on my favourite bookstore which has been closed for good, the memories would often come flooding back. The smell of bookstores, the feel of book spines as you run through them, it was practically heaven.

Most bookstores face a period of rising rental costs, expensive import fees and a decline of paperback readers. Another reason for the decline of paperback books is e-books.

Reading on platforms like Libby allowed me to read for free and at my convenience. While paperback books will always be my first true love, I will admit to having cheated on them a couple of times. #Guilty.

Even with e-books, many youths remain optimistic regarding the livelihood of bookstores. Nuha Ali, 18, an avid reader, shared how dejected she was about bookstores dying.

“My bookstore memories always remind me of how I would spend hours to find the perfect book and would eventually settle on the first one I laid my eyes on. With e-books, I don’t look like a crazy person making one of the hardest decisions in life and the whole experience of that will go away with bookstores and that [just makes me] sentimental.”

“I think there’s a need for physical bookstores. A lot of people have made memories in them. Also seeing the things you love in existence lightens the spirit of book lovers.”

While it may seem like the sole reason to save bookstores, I believe local writers and the platform which they are given at bookstores like Epigram and Popular is another reason why we should save bookstores. They give the authors an avenue to showcase their works and interact with their fans.

I remember my first encounter with Russell Lee, the author of Singapore Ghost Stories. While I did not get his autograph, seeing the man in the flesh was enough to make me star-struck. I read most of his books, dragged my parents to the section of the bookstore where there was a mini shrine of his books and coerced them to buy them for me. It was such a surreal moment that made me really understand how much of an impact he had made. Seeing the number of fans outside waiting in lines for a glimpse of him, made me realise my passion and inspiration for writing

While most of us have only read Singapore literature because our grades depended on it, the value of local writers has shone through their unique perspectives (writers) on the Singaporean story which allows us to see the proper representation of the Singapore story.
According to a study done by Norway’s Stavanger’s University, Paperbacks allow people to connect with the storyline easier. The study explains that reading online disrupted mental maps of the text which makes it harder for one to understand the text.

If you ever watched Megamind, a Dreamworks animation film, you would be familiar with the lead, Megamind, the good man turned bad. That is how I view paperbacks – heroes turned bad because of the world around them. Eventually, just like Megamind, they always manage to redeem themselves with the experiences they provide. So maybe there is a presidential pardon to this sentence.


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