Being unable to go out to borrow or purchase a copy of my book club’s current read, my only options were to resort to buying an electronic copy, or otherwise miss the next meeting (which I suppose will be done online, considering current circumstances).
Speaking of current circumstances, my book club’s current read is The Plague by Albert Camus. It’s quite a fitting read at a time like this, although it is about a fictitious plague set in a world several decades in the past. But it makes one realise that we are doing quite well in comparison. (Well, I’m speaking only for the country I live in, and the people I know.)
In the novel, the plagued city in question, Oran, closed off their borders as the epidemic worsened, and forbade travel in and out of the city, both by locals and foreigners alike. The story being set in pre-internet days, the inhabitants do not have the option of video calling each other, nor can they even send letters due to fears of transmitting pathogens via paper. If I remember correctly, the only option left to them is the use of telegrams.
Moreover, the treatment for the plague must be sourced from Paris, and of course there are supply issues, and of course the treatment does not always work.
The novel’s main character, Dr Rieux (which, according to Google, translates to “laughing” in French — I’m not entirely sure of the relevance of this, since he seems to be rather serious) was the first to recognise the danger, and appealed to “The Prefect” (some kind of authority) to initiate and enforce drastic lockdown procedures. The Prefect’s main concern, however, seemed to be making sure people were not alarmed and did not panic, so there was a delay in implementing the required protective measures.
It’s been interesting to see the parallels with the fictitious plague and the current pandemic we are living through. And it was also, indeed, a good reminder that there have been many such plagues all throughout the history of the world. And why do people just start assuming that we are safe and immune forever after a while of no plagues if these things keep recurring despite medical advances?
Anyway, none of this was meant to be the point of this post. Mostly I wanted to say that I’ve never read a book entirely on a device (or have I? Not that I can remember anyway) And, actually, truth be told (because only truth is permitted here), I haven’t actually finished reading The Plague yet — partly because I’m not exactly enthralled by the edition/translation I’m reading; and partly because reading on a device, although convenient, does not excite me or make me want to read.
Usually my reading time is in the evenings, after dinner, but that is also when I’m trying to limit screen-time. So having a book on my phone kind of makes these two objectives clash.
This past week in particular, I’ve found myself longing to read a physical book. There’s something about holding a physical book, and flipping through its pages, that e-books cannot mimic.
Sure, e-books have benefits too. For example, I can select any word and quickly search for a definition, and then promptly resume reading. I can also easily highlight or bookmark certain passages of interest, which might be useful in book club discussion.
But, as it stands, I’m only 48% of the way through the novel (another neat feature is that it tells you exactly how far along you are, and times how much reading you do each day). It makes me wonder if I would be more eager to read and finish this book if it were a physical book rather than an electronic one.
I think the only way to tell is to read more e-books and see if I feel any differently about those. The problem, of course, is that after finishing The Plague, I’m planning to go back to actual books, and I don’t think I’ll feel inclined to read more e-books any time soon (believe me, I have enough unread physical books in my possession to last several lockdowns!)