Are Books Really Dying? Is My Office the Graveyard?

I’ve been reading expert predictions about the book industry. All my favorite industry insiders have written blogs in the past couple months explaining how printed books are headed toward oblivion. These are people who should know because they’re the ones who moved their columns from magazines and newspapers to online weblogs, thus hastening the demise of the magazine and newspaper industries.

I love being surrounded by books. Bookshelves were on the list of move-in day priorities when we moved into our new house. As I write here in my home office, I’m surrounded by shelves to my left, shelves behind me, and floor to ceiling shelves to my right. Ahhhh, to know my books are with me…it’s a beautiful feeling. We have books in our bedroom. Each of our kids have bookshelves in their room. The game room has two walls of bookshelves.

Bookshelves are one of the best pieces of furniture around because they’re practical (holding books), artistic (my wife made me purchase bookshelves that matched my desk), sentimental displays (all my tchotchke are displayed in front of my books), and provide a hint of danger (the 8 foot tall bookshelf next to my desk could kill me if we had a rare Texas earthquake!).

It seems the book publishing industry is all a-Twitter over what will happen to printed books in the next five years. With the introduction and market growth of ebook readers (Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc), more and more people are purchasing digital copies of books. The fear is the growth of the ebook eliminates the need for books printed on old fashioned paper. (I won’t get into statistics, but here’s a good column for those interested in a little industry analysis and projected numbers. > Mike Shatzkin blog)

OK, here’s my thoughts on the matter…books will never go away completely. Maybe I’m a dinosaur, but I can’t see the print industry being completely eliminated. As long as those new devices need batteries there will be a market for books on paper. As long as a memory card can be erased or a hard drive can crash, there will always be a need for a back-up print copy of favorite/needed books or reference materials.

I have friends who are gaga over the Kindle and iPad. Most of them are people who previously bought books by the truckload, and have now transferred those purchases to the digital marketplace. They’ve convinced me those fancy, new devices are readable, convenient, easy to use, and much lighter to carry than a box of books. If I had the money, I’d probably have one of them fancy electronic book thingamabobs too. (It’ll probably happen on a Christmas, birthday or Father’s Day in the future.) But, this is one gadget I’m not begging and pleading to get.

I love perusing bookstores and looking at titles along the shelves. I know I can find more titles online, but I just love browsing. I enjoy interacting with books and highlighting interesting portions and writing comments or responses in the margins to what the author has written. As I prep a sermon or write a blog, prayer letter or column, I often find myself going along my books trying to remember in which book I read a particular illustration or other background I’d like to use. I can’t imagine trying to find something like that in a digital library, especially when I already have so many digital pictures I can’t find our family picture from last vacation. How in the world will I recall what book included what point if I can’t see the title on the spine. After all, holding that book for a week of reading, seeing the cover and author’s name every time I pick it up is what helps imprint and associate the content with the book in my mind. (And I know I can google the same stuff faster, but I’m a dinosaur.) I enjoy having five books open before me on a table, comparing and cross referencing the material.

So, yes, I understand you can highlight on some of the digital reading pads and, sure, you can copy and paste portions for later use; but, it’s not the same. It might be better and more efficient, but it’s not the same. And change takes getting used to. Plus, I can’t imagine anyone will be impressed when you electronically transfer a book to their BlueTooth Eyeglasses Bookreader device in 2075 and tell them it’s the same digital copy your grandfather read and passed on to you. There’s no musty smell, no notes written in faded pen, no faded cover…so, who cares? (*By the way, I hereby request the patent on the BlueTooth Eyeglasses Bookreader device now in 2010. Whoever invents it owes me some royalty money.)

As digital books become more accepted there’s sure to be a decline in printed materials. Our kids don’t bring home textbooks anymore, they access all their class reading material online. I understand college courses are providing more and more required texts in digital format. It’s only a matter of time before this generation doesn’t even know what it’s like to hold and a book. They won’t know what it’s like to lug several books on vacation, haul a bunch of books into a classroom, or carry an armload of research texts from the library.

And, the saddest part of all…what kid wants to be known as a “Kindle-worm” because he likes to read?

The Unexamined Life and All…

*Thanks for reading this online and not waiting for the book version to be printed.

 **The “Floating Bookshelves” seen in the picture on the right can be found here > CLICK HERE FOR LINK

Posted: July 12, 2010 
Filed under: Book Reviews, Deep Thoughts with Pastor Jeff, Jeff
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