The Goldfinch: Would you download the e-version if you already owned the book?

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I know this (further) exposes me for the lazy person that I am, but the physical weight of the book really got to me after a while!

With a book as acclaimed as The Goldfinch by Donna Tart — that it has won the Pulitzer also helps — you just know it will make an impressive addition to your bookshelf. I know I did! And it looks good up there too. Except… I couldn’t finish it.

That wasn’t for lack of trying though. I read it greedily everywhere I went. In the bus to work, at work, at lunches I arrived to early on purpose and just before bed.

The issue was, and this is going to make me sound like a cupcake, while I loved the book immensely, my neck, arms and shoulders could NOT take the weight of it anymore. At over 850 pages, it actually made one of the straps of my handbag come loose. Sure, I could have probably bought a sturdier handbag, just appreciated the gentle workout, or been sane and unloaded things unnecessary to readers such as wallets, snack boxes and hand lotions. But after a point, I’d had enough. And now I walk by the title proudly displayed on my bookshelf every single day and think: You know, I should have really downloaded that on my Kindle!

As of now, I’m waiting for the right moment, maybe when I feel a little less guilty and more self-indulgent, to download this book I already own. I mean, seriously! Who in their right mind would buy a book and download it to their ereader just so they don’t have to work hard to hold it up to the light?

That would be me, hello, nice to meet you, I’d shake your hand but that’s too much of a workout so…

What would you do if you were faced with my situation?

This post is part of The Saturday eReader series. Read more posts here

The Saturday eReader: Sea of Poppies by Amatav Ghosh

poppies As someone who owns a signed copy of the Ibis trilogy in hardcover, I know it may sound a bit patronising to recommend that you purchase the ebook version of The Sea of Poppies. But as someone who owns the Ibis series in hardcover, let me just tell say, reading these books comfortably is quite a workout. Of course, if they’re signed by Amitav Ghosh, and you’re in desperate need of some definition in your shoulders, the hard copies are totally worth the effort.

However, if I was one of those people who has one set of books for show and another for wear and tear, I would purchase the trilogy on the Kindle as well. It’s just more comfortable to read and convenient to take on the bus, train, across the universe, the works! But I’m not rich or snooty enough to justify such duality in my reading habits so I’ll just stick to my hard copies – they’re signed! Did I mention that? – and leave it to you to decide between hardcopy and ebook.

Sea of Poppies is one of the best books I’ve read inside and most definitely outside of Indian Literature. The first in the Ibis trilogy, it transports us to the period of India’s burgeoning opium cultivation and trade which rendered the British extremely rich and the Indian farmer destitute. With this historic backdrop, Sea of Poppies introduces us to a slew of fascinating characters caught in the midst of this – from the grey eyed Deeti who sees the Ibis in her dreams way before she has even seen the ocean, to Babu Nob Kissin, who is convinced the ship’s second mate, an American named Zachary Reed, is a reincarnation of Lord Krishna. There’s also Raja Neel Rattan Haldar, whose family lives opulently but can barely manage to hide the fact that they have indeed fallen on hard and troubling times. And the most fascinating of them all is Paulette Lambert, the daughter of a French botanist, raised by a Bengali Muslim wet nurse, who uses her Indian upbringing to her advantage when she wants to escape the manipulative, but very influential family, who takes her in after her father’s death.

What I love about the book is how vividly it paints India in the 1800s. At one point you can actually smell the opium factories, with their listless workers waist deep in the stuff, churning it around continually. You can actually visualise the old port of Calcutta, bringing in ships like the Ibis and little boats like the one Paulette was born in, to dock in stability before returning to the fearsome seas again. It’s also fascinating to read about the opium trade, production and the lives that it wrecked on one hand and made rich and powerful on the other. Through the journey of the Ibis we also get to read about lives on freights during that period and a bit about the slave trade.

I’ve read this book twice and am currently crawling through River of Smoke. Honestly, I truly love that my books are personally autographed – I stood in very long lines to make that happen! But if I were you, I would totally go for the ebook over the hardcopy just because of how convenient they are to lug around everywhere you go because believe me, this isn’t the kind of series you can put down too easily.

This isn’t a review. It’s part of a series I call The Saturday eReader which focuses on recommending a different ebook every weekend. Read more posts from the series here.

The Saturday eReader: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

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Very rarely do you come across a book that has you hooked the minute you read its name. If you’re a fan of horror, witchcraft and the occult, download this book without a second of thought — if the name and jacket art haven’t peaked your interest already.

It’s a bit ‘high school’ at times, but not in the usual, formulaic way you might imagine. Well, maybe in the similarities to the once-carefree-now-totally-rogered group of friends who have foolishly kicked the hornet’s nest. It deals with some pretty dark stuff too so don’t waltz in looking to get a kick out of a forbidden romance beyond the grave.

Of course, Anna Dressed in Blood, quick, fascinating read that it is, is probably not the best representative of its genre. But it’s a pretty damn good attempt nevertheless! TV series worthy, I would say, once The Vampire Diaries stuffs it once and for all. Read it on your Kindle before that happens.

Download & read Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

A lament for Kindle Jane

Last week, as I went on and on about my faithful old Kindle, I totally forgot to mention that it wasn’t the original device I started out with. My first Kindle died on me two years into service because of something rather stupid that I did.

Going through some archives, I found this old blog post and recalled how upsetting that time had been. Do you remember a time when Amazon wasn’t in India? When there weren’t certified service centres to deal with your Kindle related issues? This was written around that time: My lament for Kindle Jane.

Originally published in July, 2012 on The Caterpillar Cafe
janeTwo train rides in and I consider it a miracle to have finished 25 percent of If You Can’t Stand The Heat (Poppy Markham: Culinary Cop) by Robin Allen on my smartphone. Between phone calls, Whatsapp messages and the rush hour crowd knocking my device out of my hands, one can’t dismiss the discomfort of physically reading a book on a 3.7” display screen.

I like the idea of a Kindle app for different devices, but I don’t like reading books on my phone. It’s a bit of a betrayal to my Amazon Kindle ebook reader. But then again, my friends told me it was the ultimate betrayal to the smell of books when I bought my device two years ago. At the time, I dismissed their blind devotion to physical books, choosing instead to harp on about the device’s absence of backlight, pencil thin body, the thesaurus that came installed, and the fact that the battery lasted for 30 days on a single charge.

Since I’ve owned my beauty – never named her unfortunately – she’s managed to accumulate and store over 30 books. Many of the reviews on this blog were written after experiencing different worlds – magical, mythical, real, surreal – in e-carbon ink. That was until a few weeks ago when I let the battery get so low that it refused to come back on. When I googled it, I learned that if you slide the power button and held it for over a minute, the system would reboot. And voila! Reboot she did. Or at least only a small crack in her corner did. The rest of her is still hijacked by the Jane Austen screensaver.

The time was ripe to find a Kindle service centre, an impossible task it would seem, since Amazon hasn’t officially launched in India.

“Are you travelling to the US anytime soon?” I tried my luck with some well-heeled friends.

“Nope.” “Nada.” “Erm…” “December 2013.”

My matchbox-sized room can’t handle any more books and I’m really not in the mood to replace a device to which I’ve grown so attached. But I can’t keep away from books forever, can I? Because if this experience has taught me anything, it’s that we’ve read books in different shapes, forms and sizes — pocket classics, coffee table books, anthologies, trilogies and novellas. But if you allow that to change their functionality in your mind’s eye, you will never read again.

After all, some of the same friends who scorned me for selling out to the tablet revolution two years ago just asked me, “Why don’t you just buy an iPad?” Maybe this is something I’ll get used to? Or maybe I’ll go blind.

On the bright side, I think I finally have a name for my Kindle: Hello Jane, please don’t die on me.