Long Live Books?

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?



9 comments on “Long Live Books?

  1. I bought a Kindle a few months ago. It’s taken me a while to get used to it, but now that I have, I like it. Don’t love it, but I like it. The best thing I’ve found is the short fiction that is alive and thriving in ebooks. I prefer the ereader when it comes to short fiction.

    I thought I’d read fewer print books, but turns out I’m reading as many print books as usual and reading more ebooks, too. My purse weighs less nowadays. 😉

    • I do like the idea of a “light and easy” access to reading material … I just wonder what it means for the future if print books become less popular. Will they, do you think?

      • Personally, I think mass-market paperbacks are on the way out. They’ve out-priced the impulse buyer and ereaders are taking up the slack. I believe the day swift approaches that print publishers will decide the mid-list is too expensive to produce. So they’ll stick with the tried and true best sellers and attempt to cherry pick indie published ebooks that are selling gangbusters. Most of their focus will probably go with art books, non-fiction and graphics heavy tomes that just don’t look good in an ebook (right now). If they don’t pay attention to the technology, though, they could very well end up losing that market, too.

        But will print go away? I doubt it. It is going to change.

        My favorite place to read an ebook? When I’m cooking. Something has to simmer for ten minutes, so I stay in the kitchen and read a chapter. The kindle is sturdy and forgiving of the occasional splash and splatter. I don’t have to worry about misplacing my bookmark either.

  2. “or will I be a crazy book-hoarding lady who will die – quietly and undiscovered for weeks – beneath a pile of printed words…”

    Well, I can certainly think of WORSE ways to go. 😉

  3. Oh Stef! It really is a sad story isn’t it?! I don’t know what to say…I’ve been assured over the last couple of weeks at the writers festival that books are not dead, and won’t be for some time. Sure, we’ll see less three-level bookstores like Borders floating around and I suspect for writers it will be more difficult to get something published through the traditional publishers who will be less likely to take you on unless you’re going to guarantee them some big bucks….

    But honestly, I don’t think you need to start insuring that graveyard just yet.

    AND, I totally won’t hold it against you if you convert wholly to ebooks. I may judge you just a little bit, but I do believe you can still consider yourself a bibliophile regardless 😉

  4. Absolutely you will still be a bibliophile. I made the switch to ebooks nearly two years ago (was given a Kindle for Christmas and was underwhelmed until I tried it) and while I still read traditional books I definitely prefer my ereader. The experience is still the same – sometimes I am so absorbed in the story that I reach to turn the page before realizing that there are no pages to turn. Having said that, I am not a fun of reading on a multi purpose gadget. My ereader is only needed for one thing and that is books.

    • I’m glad that you are positive about your Kindle! Every Kindle owner I speak to is in love with their eBooks … I just don’t know if I can stand a smooth screen over a grainy page!

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