Ringing the Sad Death Knell for the Book – Day 149

Sunset on Chapters
February 1, 2011.

Chapters' staff already push you to the website at the drop of a hat rather than offer to order a book for you. Will this store be here in 10 years? Or even five?

Let me preface all this by first stating that I embrace change. And then by qualifying it by saying that of course I mean “good” change, and recognizing that like most people (especially over the age of, ahem, 20-ish), change can be difficult for me sometimes.

But when I heard the CBC Radio show Ideas on Monday night talking about “Closing the Book” – quite literally – I started to get a little nervous.

The idea in a nutshell is that within 10 to 15 years, according to one of the interviewees, the printed word will be dead. There is already a move towards the ebook, and that will set about a chain reaction whereby the number of people who prefer to read an actual book will fall close enough to zero that it will no longer be economically feasible to print them.

The proof? By 2012, it’s projected that 50% of book sales will happen in actual book stores, 25% will be purchased online, and 25% will be ebooks. The digital format will grow in dominance for the next decade, wiping out books like iTunes destroyed CDs.

The show is quick to point out that it won’t be writing that will be destroyed, just the physical book itself. It also added that over time, the structure of “books” as we know them today will likely change too with its new medium.

“What really matters in the connection between writers and readers,” according to another interviewee.

I have serious problems with this statement. Although I agree the connection is the most important thing, it’s not the only thing that matters. I’ve tried using ebooks, and except for my limited experience on an iPad, I don’t like them. The Kobo Reader I tried immediately attempted to connect to the Internet when I picked it up to demo, and locked up as it search for a non-existent network. I put it down after 5 seconds.

That aside, I’m not a fan of the current screens (hard to read) and the device itself seems a little small.

(In fact several people have asked me my opinion on what my favourite ereader is, and I’ve told them all that I’d choose an iPad if money was no object or wait for something better to come along…)

On the other hand, I love the feel of a book. The type is just right, turning pages is effortless, and they never run out of batteries.

I know I’ll get used to ereaders, especially as they improve. I suspect I will have to in the near future (the book is not dead yet, but I fear it’s mortally wounded). Just as audiophiles cling to their LPs and, I imagine, those before us clung to their horse-drawn carriages, I think it will be a sad day for me when books finally disappear. Like LPs for music and horses for travel, there will be something lost in the reading experience when books do finally go. It will be passing that book lovers — not just “readers” but book lovers — will mourn.

I embrace change. I like change, ultimately. But I will miss my books.

You can hear the whole documentary (less than 30 minutes long) here:
http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/episodes/2011/01/31/closing-the-book/

~Graham

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