The death of the book has been greatly exaggerated

Not so long ago bookshops were closing almost as fast as churches. It seemed like the Kindle was going to kill the book and the internet or the X-box was going to kill reading.

That might still happen but as it turns out paper technology is far more resilient and reading is as vital as ever.

As Alexandra Alter writes in the New York Times, “the digital apocalypse never arrived, or at least not on schedule. While analysts once predicted that e-books would overtake print by 2015, digital sales have instead slowed sharply.”

Publishers are adding space to their warehouses, the number of bookshops is climbing not falling (at least in America) and reading habits are shifting to a mixed economy – sometimes we read on a device and sometimes an actual book.

It seems many are like Craig Mod, “From 2009 to 2013, every book I read, I read on a screen. And then I stopped.”

His experiences matches my own, I acquire books on my Kindle but I read the books I buy (mostly, ahem). As Mod astutely points out

The pile of unread books we have on our bedside tables is often referred to as a graveyard of good intentions. The list of unread books on our Kindles is more of a black hole of fleeting intentions.

However Alter cautions against saying the pendulum has totally swung the other way; “The tug of war between pixels and print almost certainly isn’t over. Industry analysts and publishing executives say it is too soon to declare the death of the digital publishing revolution.”

It’s possible that the reading experience on phones (in particular) where an enormous amount of reading takes place will continue to evolve, but I agree with Mod.

I do know that print has endured and continues to endure for good reason. Our relationships to our most meaningful books are long and textured. And until we can trust our digital reading platforms, until the value propositions of digital are made clearer, until the notes and data we produce within them is more accessible and malleable, physical books will remain at the core of our working libraries for a long time coming.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.