“It is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong,” wrote the British philosopher and jurist in “A Fragment on Government,” a treatise on political thought. This is the sawhorse on which the philosophy of Utilitarianism rests.
The moral worth of an action, it posits, should be judged only by its outcome. Anything that maximizes pleasure and minimizes pain should be pursued.
In making nearly all purchases, more so, electronic gadgets, I’m guided by this axiom. I don’t even adopt a new technology till such time I’m confident that it’ll give me “the greatest happiness.”
Not everything that sits on the shelf need be bought. Which is the reason I’d put off getting a tablet, until recently, thinking that it may not agree with my temperament.
But surprise of surprises, what did I discover? Reading an e-book was a thrilling ride. I chose to inaugurate the electronic reading spree with “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum. I finished reading it much faster than I would’ve its paperback version.
Paper pages aren’t illuminated from behind. Which is what makes reading print books that have closely-spaced lines as well as a tiny font, strenuous on the eye. That layout can also make it difficult to decipher and comprehend crabbed passages. The backlit, glowing wonder that a tablet (or an e-reader) is, lets one read, without the need to sit on an armchair that has a lamp next to it.
Unlike a hardcover that I have to balance on my hand, as if it were an easel, I could well hold the device in one hand or prop it against a stand on my lap, and then read on, hands-free.
It also spared me from an exhausting chore: from erasing miles of lead trails. As I wiped along merrily, I underlined sections, without fear of littering them with pencil marks. A pencil may be better than a highlighter in that it doesn’t stain the pages with permanent fluorescent dye. But a neatnik that I am, I feel compelled to tidy up a book after I’ve read it. In my effort to leave it in the pristine condition I bought it in, I spend hours removing the markings, applying the muscle power of a Renaissance scullery maid scrubbing a pot.
Another interesting plus that made the journey a breeze is the built-in dictionary. If I was stumped by a word, I’d summon its meaning by lightly tapping on it and fleetingly pausing over it. No more getting off my chair to climb up a ladder to bring down the dictionary.
The e-book function of a tablet is a wonderfully self-sufficient service that combines a highlighter, a dictionary, and a narrator (if you so wish).
Moreover, it looks at your reading from different parameters. Not only does it show you the page number, but also the percentage of the book you’ve read, and based on your reading speed, the time it’ll take you to finish it.
If there was a “pain,” if would be that the second book will look just like the first. And those in the habit of scribbling marginalia can’t do so.
But surely, Mr. Bentham, its pleasures outnumber the pains. It’s time I got into e-books. You never know, really, what you’ll like till you’ve tried it.