Is the printed word on it’s way out?

By Sharon Fussell, September 28, 2012

I know I have discussed the Amazon Kindle eReader and its impact on book selling in past ezines, but this week on a news programme they had a discussion on eReaders (Kindles in particular) which raised a different question:

Will eReaders eventually create a situation where actual printed books are not stocked by libraries?

Apparently, in some areas you can download a book without actually going into a library, and pay for 3 weeks rental, after which time the eBook would no longer be available as it would be automatically removed from their device.

I know as a youngster I spent many hours in the lovely local library, choosing and reading several books a week.

Downloading titles to me is just not the same as looking for a book to read, picking up likely candidates, reading the blurb on the back and trying to decide if that book was really one I wanted to read.

Personally, I cannot imagine being able to browse online books in anything like the same way.

However, I guess the eReader does have its supporters – many people tell me they “absolutely love” their Kindles so who am I to tell them they are wrong?

I spotted this article ‘School chooses Kindle; are libraries for the history ‘books’?’ concerning a school in the USA. Their library was vastly under-used so the Head Teacher took the liberty of removing all printed books and materials and replacing them with digital collections.

The article noted:

“Library watchers say it could be the first school library, public or private, to forsake ink and paper in favour of e-books. It also represents the first time a school has placed its students’ intellectual lives so fully into the hands of a few online publishers and makers of electronic devices.”

One of the driving forces behind this change is saving money:

‘New Kindles run from $200 to $500, but purchasing several e-titles can be done so much more cheaply than buying traditional books with downloads costing $5 apiece, compared to a $30 hardback…’

By Greg Toppo, USA TODAY

Imagine the power Amazon would have over the education system in USA were educational institutions to become beholden to and its editorial decisions(!)

In fact, it is quite easy to become seduced into believing that the printed word really is on the way out so I was quite reassured to find another article containing these four reasons why this is just not the case…

1. “Printed books provide a tactile experience […] There is an aspect to the feel of books (the smooth glossy cover, the roughness and even smell of the paper) that provides a sensation that is both separate from and intimately linked to the story you are reading. We bond not only with the author […] but with the book itself.”

2. “Great novels, from War and Peace to The Shadow of the Wind were not meant to be read on a digital screen, no matter how much “like paper” they try to make that screen.”

3. “Books can be written in, dog-eared, loaned to friends, stuffed in your back pocket, browsed for on rainy afternoons, and then sold to a used bookshop for cash to buy yet more books. Try that with a Kindle.”

4. “Most readers (and we have always been remarkably few as percentage of the total population) like having a personal library […]The books in your Kindle don’t even exist except as bits of binary code.”

According to the author of this article:

“[…] The Kindle is simply another electronic gadget [and] given our attention span with regard to gadgets, I believe that printed books are quite safe.”

Printed Books Are Not Dead, by Bruno Somerset, Yahoo! Contributor Network

Bruno, I entirely agree! I see the kindle as a fad gadget too – and could certainly not envision me having one. Call me a luddite, but I hate reading via a computer screen and cannot see that changing in the near future!

What’s your take on this? Do you agree with Bruno? Are eReaders just a fad – or a sign of things to come? And what do you think that might mean for the value of the printed word?

Something to ponder on!


What do you think?

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