How Lockdown Fundamentally Changed the Way I Read

It took a global pandemic for me to open my Kindle.

Even before lockdown officially began, I received an email from the library informing me that it was going to be closed indefinitely. I had only three unread books with me and couldn’t help but wonder how much longer it would be before I could get my hands on more.

There was, of course, the Kindle that had been sitting on my bookshelf for almost eight years, picking up dust and nothing more. But reading anything that didn’t smell like a book seemed blasphemous to me.

I promised myself I would have other things to keep me busy during my time at home, but little did I know this ‘time’ would lead into months of reading time that would have otherwise been lost.

Within a week, I found myself wanting to use my Kindle. So out it came, along with my prejudices and inhibitions about reading on a device which had travelled with me across continents, but never once been used.

My Kindle is one of the oldest models. It has no back light. My first step was to accessorise it with everything I needed to get the most out of this new experience – a clip-on light and a funky-yet-classy cover. When I was done bringing my Kindle up to speed with the times, I had nothing left to do but read on it – the toughest part for a paperback loyalist like myself.

It turned out to be nowhere near as horrific or painful as I had often dramatically thought it would be. In fact, from day one, I found myself rather enthralled. I could get any book I wanted within minutes, without having to reserve it, wait (sometimes even for months on end) and make the long, cumbersome journey to the library. And this to me wasn’t even the best part! I read while eating meals and late into the night while curled up in bed. My prejudiced mind had to admit the design of the device was close to perfect.

Also read: A Brief History of Reading: The Innate Joy of Second-Hand Books

To put it mildly, I became addicted. I was reading more than I was earlier. For the first couple of weeks, I read one book every two days. What was more fascinating than the speed at which I was going through books was the fact that I was exploring new genres, some of which I always thought were out of my realm of understanding. Perhaps this was because suddenly it was so easy for me to get any book I wanted within minutes. From politics to science, fiction and journalism, I had everything at my fingertips, just a few clicks away.

Although I have always been an avid reader, I believed the Kindle was a predicament to the world of reading. I fought hard with anyone who dared disagree or tried to convince me to give it a try.

Now I know I was wrong.

Yes, a Kindle doesn’t smell like a book and yes, there’s no joy compared to picking your favourite book of a shelf, snuggling in a corner and losing yourself in its pages. But a Kindle is the best substitute. The transition from paperback to digital reading was so easy. Looking back, I can’t imagine why I waited so long to get caught up in the Kindle mania.

I live far away from my family in a different part of the planet and my Kindle has been a saviour during the lockdown. Through this pandemic, when a lot of bookworms struggled to get their hands on new reads, my Kindle became my constant companion and best friend. I don’t think I can say for sure that I prefer reading on a Kindle to reading a book, but I can say that it revolutionised reading for me.

Rithika Shenoy is a journalist, bibliophile and (by mistake) lawyer. Her interests lie in foreign policy, diplomacy and inter-cultural dialogues.

Featured image credit: Nemichandra Hombannavar/Unsplash