June 16, 2014
The Relentless Rise Of eBooks
Out-Kindled and dog eared, I smell defeat for the print and paper lobby. The eBook is on the rise with an unstoppable momentum. From the demise of paperbacks to the demolition of libraries, the world of the written word is changing forever. What’s to be missed if printed books disappear? Well, there wouldn’t be any more bigot book burnings, though not many will mourn that. A lot of trees will breathe more easily. A man named Jeff Bezos and his ilk will be dancing on the book grave. But for those of us with a deep nostalgia for hard copy books, the new digital world will be full of empty holes.
The British accountancy firm Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC) has published a report, Turning the Page -The Future of eBooks, which predicts that by the year 2018 in the Bezos calendar, digital book readers will have finally overtaken traditional books as the preferred reading method for the majority of people. One can only assume it will be all downhill from there on.
According to PWC, consumer eBook sales in the UK alone currently amount to around £380 million a year. This figure is set to rise to over a billion pounds in the four years to 2018. They also predict that sales of printed copies will fall by a third, to well under the billion pound mark, and that by then more then half the UK population will own some kind of eReader. People everywhere are getting used to the idea that books can be downloaded and ready to strain your eyes in minutes. Publishers are adapting fast. The spin-off market has become as important as the original book, something which never happened in the past. Just imagine if it had — old Dostoevsky, for example, shaking his head at the Crime and Punishment games, toys, and cartoon DVD versions.
The slow death of real books might be a lot slower than the number crunchers tell us. A lot of people, myself included, were weaned on printed books. They can be things of beauty. They can have sentimental value — I still treasure my dad’s book collection, as it represents a big part of who he was. OK, I admit I’m a dinosaur and that books can be a damn nuisance sometimes. I have far too many. They clutter up the house, harbor dust, and even fall to pieces from time to time. But a book collection is like a little personal time capsule, telling the story of who you were when you bought them. I love to browse through other people’s books — you can learn a lot about your friends that way. But mine is probably the last generation to see things like this. Libraries will be like museums and a second-hand bookshop a bizarre relic of the past. Will my kids want my book collection? They might want some of it, I suppose, but not much. They might even digitize it. Then again, they might even digitize me, given half the chance. I would take up a lot less space that way. Chances are, though, I will still be stuck with my yellowing tomes when I turn my toes up. Bury me with my books, will you lads?
Image Credit: Thinkstock