The future of books

By Emma Brooks

At the dinner table the other evening, the conversation suddenly turned to the future of books. The person next to me seemed to think that books would soon be completely obsolete, along with all other forms of written press. Of course, it is obvious that the widespread use of internet, smart phones and items like the iPad have definitely changed the approach people have to written press. Nowadays, instead of buying a newspaper at your local newsagent, you will simply have the latest app on your phone or tablet, or be reading the online version which contains all the same information and can’t be so easily forgotten on a bus. With the internet, news can get around the world much much faster, and be directly viewed by millions of people simultaneously, rather than having to wait for the 8 o’clock news or the next version of the paper. Stories are updated as and when they come in.

But what does this have to do with books? Personally I find it hard to believe that books will become obsolete any time soon, and doubt that they will be replaced by only digital versions. What about libraries, will they simply be closed down? And what would they do with all the books? Or what about the great feeling of holding the book in your hand brand new, opening it, cracking the spine and making it look well-read? Surely nothing beats that feeling.

Since the arrival of the Kindle in 2007, it has now become hugely popular with millions of people already owning one. Not only that, but with its price being affordable at £89, it seems like a worthwhile long-term investment. What better than a small tablet easy to carry around with you, that contains all of your favourite books and more (up to 1400 books it would seem). Much lighter than carrying around 500 pages worth of a novel in your bag, and definitely takes up much less space than would be needed if you had to put all 1400 books up on bookshelves.

The news is not good: in the age of the e-book reader (as Kindle is not alone), it would seem that regular books sales are not doing very well, and libraries are also being threatened by having to shut down. An article by the Guardian states that hardback sales have gone down 10% this year, an alarming figure. Furthermore, visits to libraries are also dropping, as people no longer feel the need to visit the local library to borrow books, when a lot can easily be found online.

Not only that, but different systems for book lending already exist, such as distributing books from shops or churches (much like combining post office services with local shops, therefore reducing the number of actual post offices exisiting). This could likely render the future of the book even more uncertain. Ewan Morrison is even bleaker still claiming that in 25 years, paper books will be all but dead.

Is this really what we are doomed to witness? Will our children not be able to enjoy having their own paperback books but instead be part of the generation of babies born with iPhones, game consoles and also a Kindle?

I’d like to hope that the future of the book is not so bleak. People still continue to buy books, even though less than they did before. Paperbacks and cheaper editions are still popular, book clubs continue to exist as do book swaps. It seems to me that it will take a very long time before all paper copies of books are completely written off and doomed to oblivion. Hopefully we can carry on cracking the spines of new books for many years to come, even if we secretly also carry an e-book reader in our bag.

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