Monday, April 22, 2013

The Beginning of the End?

     I saw this link on Twitter:
The Day I Forgot How to Use a Book It's an older post, but I found it interesting. I have never (yet) tried to swipe a physical book, but I wonder if others have. And, if it is a common mistake, what it may mean for the publishing industry at large, and writers and readers, as well.

     There are a lot of people out there in the book world that will tell you real, honest-to-goodness paper books are a dying breed, kind of like vinyl records and cassette tapes. "Digital is the only way." "Ebooks are the wave of the future." From one perspective, it may seem to be true.

     Borders no longer exists. Barnes and Noble may be in trouble, as far as their brick-and-mortar stores go, and possibly their digital divisions, as well. (How Barnes and Noble Destroyed Itself and B&N Third Quarter Financial Results) Whether or not they did it to themselves, (as some argue with the Nook) the company as a whole appears to be in trouble. Independent bookstores are not doing much better, in the overall picture. Sure, there are some that are doing very well, but there are many reports of independent stores in trouble or closing. So, what's going on? Does the ease of use and availability of digital books spell doom for bound books? Will we be hoarding our hardcovers and paperbacks in special bookcases, with protective covers, like some aficionados of vinyl records.

     I don't think so. I have a Kindle, which I use regularly. I find it very convenient when travelling, as I don't have to lug heavy books with me. If, for whatever reason, I decide I don't like or don't want to continue to read a current book, I can switch easily. It fits in a purse or computer bag easily, without inconvenient shoving. It certainly is easy to get a new book- just find it online, a couple clicks, and it is right there on the device. There are many books available for free or very little cost. I have the Kindle reader app on my iPhone. I use that frequently in places like doctor's offices, where I might not even want the extra baggage of the Kindle itself. I can catch up on a few pages of a book while I am waiting. I probably have 50+ unread digital books either on the Kindle or on my computer.

     At the same time, I have about the same number of unread paper books, also. I like books. I have a lot of books that I have read and kept on my shelves. Why? I like to have the actual books by favorite authors. There is something that feels more connecting to me about being able to look at a line of books by an author I enjoy. I get a good feeling seeing the spines all lined up together. Then, there is the idea of autographs. It's hard to get a digital book signed. I have a number of signed paper books, most from personal appearances by the author. I can look at that book, and remember meeting someone whose work I admire. You don't get that in a digital book. Add to that just the simple feeling of holding a book in your hands. Something that has weight and substance, that requires you to do a little more than just swipe your finger to turn a page.

     We are physical creatures. We like the convenience of our Kindles, iPads, and smartphones. At the same time, I think we maintain a connection to things like books. They satisfy the need to have something concrete and solid to hold and use, at least for some. Of course, there will be those who think the convenience of electronic media is better. I also believe there will always be a place for those old-fashioned bound books in many people's lives.

    I have become more particular about the books I keep, I do admit that. A lot of the books I read are either given away or donated after I read them. But if I find an interesting book- an actual bound book- browsing a bookstore or swap, I will take it. I don't run to the Kindle and see if I can get it on Amazon, even though pretty much everything is there. Even if I am reasonably sure I will not be keeping it after reading. Because, for me, at least, a book is a wondrous thing to have.

No comments: