Discovering the Wonderful Joy of Books

K Madhavan Pillai

K Madhavan Pillai

This article was originally published in July 2016.

There is something about books that makes you feel you’ve come home, or that you’ve arrived at a point in life where the good things make a difference. To enjoy a good book, you need to make it an occasion—an event for which you make an appointment with yourself. Sit down. Take the book in your hands. Look at the covers. Open it. If the book is large, it may not open all the way and you must respect that. You may also need to cradle it so that its own weight does not damage the bind. Carefully ‘collect’ a page from the top right corner. Use just the tips of your fingers to turn it over, to prevent the inevitable oils on the skin from causing smudges.

Turn, but never flip, or the paper may crack. Now, immerse yourself into what the book has to offer. Mull over. Reflect. Bring in all your thoughts, experiences and memories to relate to the writing or photography therein. Revel in the connections that occur. The journey you are now a part of may take you thousands of miles away, perhaps to a different time. In a single moment, you will know more than you have ever before. A cup of Earl Grey or adrak chai would help put things into the correct perspective. A phone or tablet cannot really replace a book. You can never luxuriate in the touch and smell of paper, or appreciate a certain size or format, or quality of print, on a tablet. Books age. And if you keep them carefully, they age gracefully. There is a beauty to an old book, or even an old paperback novel, which you will certainly not find with an old iPad.

Would you feel the same way about an old ebook or PDF, that someone someplace happened to email, sometime, as an attachment? For that matter, would you feel any sense of attachment at all? But to take a little bit of extra trouble to hand over a book to someone… there is joy in the act, for both giver and receiver. Many photographers love the idea of publishing a book. A few of those that are eventually produced become collectibles, because photobooks are printed in small numbers. Even more precious are the single editions—family photo albums and personal memoirs. There is something classic and timeless about them. Yet, unlike the billions of unseen photos preserved pixel by pixel within the electronic haze of the net, books age, some fade, yet others are lost to be found again by strangers. Perhaps it is this very nature that make them resemble photographers and photography.

Tags: K Madhavan Pillai, better photography, photobooks, Edit note, Chief Editor, August 2016