Are Books Dying?

We’ve all heard the expression, “print is dead,” but does this really apply to books? Are books as physical things dying out? Will the internet, audio books, or digital readers spell the end for books?

I don’t think they will, and in this post, I’ll explain why I think that way.

If you’re reading this site, you’re more than likely an avid reader. So, off the bat, I’m writing to a readership that probably doesn’t think books are dead or dying. However, you are reading this on the internet, so you might also be a bit more tech savvy than the average book reader. You might see where things such as the internet or digital readers could foretell the death of the book.

Let’s look at a book for a second, though, and examine it from a material aspect. The book as a form has a long history, with copies of books being mentioned in Roman texts. When the printing press was introduced in the 15th century, books were mass produced for the first time, and almost anyone could have one. The book as a form is certainly not a new thing.

Books themselves have physical qualities that the internet, audio books or digital readers just don’t have. First, and foremost, is that they are extremely portable. A small paperback book can slip in your pocket. I remember running around Portland shortly after college with a copy of The Catcher in the Rye in the back pocket of my jeans. No laptop will ever fit there.

Another thing that a book has going for it, that these other technologies don’t, is that a book doesn’t need batteries or a plug. In fact, if you’ve got a candle handy you can even read a book when all the electricity in town is out. Not to mention, you can read a book under a tree by a stream, miles away from the nearest outlet without worrying that it will cut out during a suspenseful chapter.

One of the biggest things a book has going for it, too, in this world of DRM’d music and copyrighted movies, is that you once you’re done with a book — you can loan it to a friend. Then, they can loan it to another friend. It could spread between your network of friends and not cost anybody one cent more than what you originally paid for it.

Books also just feel right in your hands. This is more of an aesthetic quality, but still important. There’s a weight and substance there that is comfortable. There’s a fragrance and a texture to a book that just can’t be reproduced with a plastic shell.

Now, as you can tell, I also use the internet. I’ve played with the digital readers, and I’ve listened to quite a few audio books. They have their place, and they serve their purposes, and in many cases do it well. Do these technologies spell certain doom for the book itself, though? I don’t think so. A book, as an entity, has too much going for it, and has lasted long enough that it won’t be going anywhere any time soon.

Now, go out there and enjoy your books.

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