Are books dead?
Since the evolution of the e-book, or perhaps should I say, the growth in popularity of the e-book, there appears to have been an ongoing war between the physical book and its digital counterpart. Did you know that the concept of e-books actually began in the 1930's, round about the same time as their physical counterpart, the paperback?! And the first official e-book came in 1971, when the Declaration of Independence was digitised by Michael S. Hart.
I will explore the history of both e-book and physical book in a later blog post, else I will end up going off at a complete tangent and nobody wants that, do they? For now I want to focus on the matter at hand which is: do books need to feel the threat of the digital age?
Some people prefer digital, others prefer the look and feel and smell of a real, tangible book.
Guess which camp I am in?
I will hold my hands up and say, I DO have a Kindle. After quite a long time of denouncing them and saying I would never want one, my husband bought me one for my birthday a few years ago, loading it with books from Haruki Murakami, an author whom he knew I loved. And actually, I quite enjoyed using it. It WAS useful, in a way, to have loads of books just there, to be able to instantly access practically any book I wanted. And to be honest, it IS useful for travelling. I don’t tend to really use it much, unless I know I am travelling, then I like to charge it up and trawl through for cheap books. So, I do really like my Kindle.
On that note, looking for cheap books on the Kindle has actually led me to a few gems, some of which I loved so much I bought in physical form too. If I do use the Kindle, I tend to get books I don’t already have. Although I DO have a copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on my Kindle…
So, me aside, let's discuss. Undoubtedly, there was a time when e=books, seemed to saturate the market. Everything became about the e-book. You couldn't go anywhere without seeing an advert for the latest Kindle device. The question began: Would books become obsolete?
Another thing to consider is the fact that the recent e-book made anyone and everyone an author. Wrote a book? Get it published on Amazon as a digital book! And so, the glory of the digital book eventually caused its own downfall. Of course, MANY a super talented author has been given a platform, we can't forget that.
Over recent years, physical books began to take precedent again. People fell back in love with real books.
Now, e-book readers such as the Kindle certainly have their place. For example, my grandma (sorry grandma!) now only ever reads books on her Kindle, as she struggles to read the font in regular books and on a Kindle it is adjustable. Others like the minimalist factor and ease. (Personally, I LOVE having a house full of books, so full of them that I trip over them. But that is why I want to open a book shop. Some people like the minimalist approach to owning things.) They make travelling easier. But to me, and to many others, nothing at all beats that feel of a book. The feel of it. Turning the pages. Using a bookmark or folding the page down, whichever is your personal preference. Some people HATE the dog-ear approach, others think that it adds character. Personally, I RARELY do it (and if I DO, I do the teeniest fold), but if I find a second hand book with them, I always think 'ah look, this is where the previous reader read up to at some point.' (Though that being said, a recent second hand book I read had HUGE dog ear folds, I am talking half the page, which I thought was a wee bit excessive.)
SO MANY PEOPLE, when I talked about wanting to open a bookshop, tell me that books are dying, that e-books are taking over. People don't want physical books. They want e-books. But, think about it. Have they? The quick answer there is: no. I have had this discussion for years. And somehow, books are still surviving.
People love books too much. I think there will always be a place for books. Because ultimately, the romanticism and nostalgia of books outweighs the convenience of the Kindle.
As Stephen Fry’s quote implies, they can exist simultaneously, alongside one another. There is a place for both real and digital books, definitely. They CAN exist, together, feeding off one another. We can love both, we can love one or the other. In this day and age, we CAN have both. We can have physical and digital. There shouldn't HAVE to be a choice. But either way they bring literature lovers together. And that, dear readers, is the most important thing of all.