I’ve read countless obituaries for books over the past few weeks and felt very much like I’ve been suffocating in a doom and gloom forecast for the printed word. Hand-in-hand with predictions for the end of the publishing industry, the demand for eBooks and cheaper+better+faster books … well, what’s a bibliophile to do? All this negativity and promise that books will one day be artefacts, rare and not of the norm … Will I one day be rich if I keep my vast collection of novels, anthologies, poetry, and complete works … or will I be a crazy book-hoarding lady who will die – quietly and undiscovered for weeks – beneath a pile of printed words that will be discarded in the rush to clean out my house for a new resident?
Morbid, I know. But my death seems like nothing compared to the loss of those loved, cherished stories that have kept my brain and spirit nourished for so long.
The thing is, bibliophiles like me make sweeping statements about how books can never be replaced with technology. Nothing quite matches the smell of a musty old book, the crease of the spine to indicate the countless times you’ve devoured your favourite story, the feel of the grainy paper beneath your fingertips as you turn the page …
But then there are those who make perfectly valid arguments for eBooks:
- it’s easier to travel with eBooks than print books (trust me – as an avid reader, my backpack was weighed down with a 6:3 ratio of books:shirts when I was travelling in 2010)
- you can get an eBook instantly in the comfort of your own pjs (no leaving the house and braving stores or impatiently waiting for the mailman to deliver your purchase)
- save the planet: dispense with paper and get into paperless reading
- with the amount of ‘free’ eBooks available, e-readers pay for themselves pretty quickly
And so I’m torn.
I don’t believe that books are dead – they can’t be, because that would make my bedroom a graveyard and my heart cannot stand to think of never again looking at a pile of books beside my bed waiting for my attention.
But if I go to the dark side and start reading eBooks, will I still be a bibliophile?