At the beginning of 2011, Amazon announced the following in the US: “Amazon.com is now selling more Kindle books than paperback books. Since the beginning of the year, for every 100 paperback books Amazon has sold, the Company has sold 115 Kindle books.”
This announcement seemed to herald the end for the dog-eared paperback. Also, since Kindles, iPads and other tablets are developing downloadable versions of newspapers and magazines, it looks as though printing’s days could be numbered. But is that really the case or is this just a storm in a teacup? We look at four reasons why print is most certainly not dead… yet.
The tangible factor
There’s something very pleasant about reading a good old-fashioned paper book. If you’re stuck into Anna Karenina it feels good to actually ‘feel’ how far through it you’ve managed to get, rather than gauge your progress via a percentage bar. Plus, since all books are laid out differently and have different dimensions, they offer real variety between reads, unlike your thoroughly consistent Kindle. Then there are magazines, especially rich, glossy fashion ones; it’s hard to imagine them retaining their sleek finish in digital form.
Batteries not included
The battery life of your average tablet or eBook is being enhanced all the time. But there’s always the risk with them that readers will get stranded without any juice. The thought of having to locate a power supply to find out what happens when Gandalf meets the Balrog in Lord of the Rings is enough to put some avid readers off entirely. Similarly, you’ve got to hope that your electronic reading device doesn’t succumb to any accidents. While a paperback may survive a run-in with a cup of tea, an eBook probably won’t.
Vive la Resistance
As with all new developments, there will always be those who staunchly oppose these new-fangled reading gadgets. The printed word will doubtless survive as long as these stubborn non-adopters will. The acclaimed author Jonathan Franzen is one member of the resistance. He recently spoke out against eBooks at a literary festival, suggesting that they open the door to Orwellian-style censorship. Unlike printed books – he argued – a centrally-housed online text can be edited or deleted by authorities, allowing them to re-write history and culture on a whim.
Judging a book by its cover
Let’s face it, when it comes to reading classic literature or intelligent journals, half of the lure are the kudos you gain by association. With an eBook or tablet you’re reading anonymously, and your fellow commuters haven’t a hope of discovering how deeply intelligent you are. Bookshelves work in the same way. Walking into a room that’s presided over by a heaving bookshelf full of beautiful and varied literary tomes is always impressive. A little gadget measuring a few inches by a few inches doesn’t carry nearly the same amount of cultural clout.