Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Is Print Dying?

Print — literature, journalism, you name it — has experienced an extended obituary over the last decade, alongside the rise of digital media.

Having survived 500 years of technological upheaval, Gutenberg's invention may withstand the digital onslaught as well.

There's something about a crisply printed, tightly bound book that we don't seem eager to let go of. Holding a book in my hand and the visceral act of physically turning a page that, for me at least, can't be matched with pixels on a screen.

Printed books are universal – anyone can read them today or at any point in the foreseeable future. What guarantees are there that you’ll still be able to read the Kindle book you pay for today in five or ten years time? Will you have to buy a fresh library if a device comes along to displace the Kindle?

Books are timeless. When you present a book as a gift, you do not have to worry about it going out of fashion. Also you cannot loan an eBook to a friend without physically giving them your e-reader, which really isn't an option.

Somehow, books are not the same when they are in electronic format. Perhaps one day in the future when e-books become obsolete and are replaced with even more high-tech alternatives, the children of this generation will say the same.

And so I hope that printed books never die. I doubt they will anytime soon; convenience has not killed other markets but made those markets revisit their roots. Perhaps the eBook revolution will ask publishing to reinvent itself and we will all come out for the better.

When the machines go dark we’ll need a written record of all that has transpired here.

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” 
~~ Haruki Murakami  

British Library, Camden, London, July 2008

My Bookends

Picture from Pinterest


Roban said...

I am practically surrounded by books both at home and at school and love, love the feel and look of them. Technology changes so rapidly, you're right to question whether the e-books will still be available in the same format in the future. A real, weighty book in your hand speaks of permanence, doesn't it?

I have a difficult time getting rid of books but will donate some to the used book sale from time to time. I still have books that are decades and decades old....

I will tell you though that my students are more interested in reading an e-book than a printed book, so the Nooks are still a big draw to get students to read more. My goal is for them to get hooked on a book or author while using the Nook and then go check the next one out from the library.

And you would smile to see one of my classrooms of students. Most of the students in there always (always) have a book in their hand.

bill lisleman said...

Do you ever read/scan too fast? I thought the title asked if the print was drying. I hope so.
Wired magazine just did an article on this.
Nice looking lady on that unusual bench.
Printed books probably will decline but I agree with you. Books will not die out for a long time. Wonder if people were upset about printed pages when they had been used to handwritten books from their favorite scribe.
We really just need more people reading whatever format (but not twitter) - just read.

Mike Smith said...

I can recommend a good b....hang, on, I've done that! Wise words as ever, my friend.

Christine said...

I hope there will always be a place for the printed book!

Relyn Lawson said...

I, too, adore books and dread the day when digital reading makes printed books to expensive for most of us to afford. One thing I do love, though, is the ease of writing and audience that the digital world provides. Blogs being my favorite venue, of course.

Can-Can said...

Literature will not die. More people are reading in different formats than ever. I am devoted to print and turning pages in my hand and looking across the train to see what other people who are reading paper books are reading. The e-readers don't allow such eavesdropping (or eyeballing). I'm about 10 pages from the end of The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe and it is such an affirmation of the power of literature. I highly recommend. I blogged once about why I like the "paper-paper." When I read a physical paper, I read much more deeply and scan every page but the ads. I don't do that with the elctronic version. I'm also not interested in the videos, pop-up ads and other distractions. Some journalists are gifted writers but don't do video well so...
I also send out a lot of written notes and letters. I guess I'm an anachronism.
Thanks for this post.

Marja said...

You said it all. I never realised but indeed you can't loan a book to somebody with kindles. Also it is scary that when electricity fails all information could be lost so books simple have to survive although I do think that there will be less of them as here some bookstores have already closed. I still have book shells full of books and like to browse in them or reread one. Love your picture on the book and your bookends and the butterflies

Who you callin' housewife? said...

And, to top it off, books smell good too. I have to feel a book while I read it. Touch is a vital aspect of reading. Think about backrubs -- giving or receiving. Imagine someone describing the act of backrubbing. You are not allowed to experience it, just read about it. That would be a pointless as reading on a Kindle.

I just realized -- as I write this, each time I take a little break, my left hand is resting on a book.

Lilly said...

First I have to see purple looks gorgeous on you Peggy.

I wonder what will happen - I hope the print media doesn't disappear. I read newspapers online but not books. I like to curl up in a chair or bed to read. I don't like computers in bedrooms and they are not that user friendly. The screen can be harsh on my eyes.

Also I just joined the library the other day. Rather than buying more stuff I am now borrowing magazines and books. Takes me back to when I was a kid.