Is This The End Of Books?

'Is this the end of books' may seem like a harsh and insane question. Of course, people love taking paper books on holiday, kids will always love reading books and many people like the weight and smell of books in their hands. I ask this question because I was vaguely listening to a BBC programme my husband was watching last night. They asked the same question and mentioned a few things which got me thinking that our generation may indeed be seeing the end of paper books. Wait before you judge me, though. I was like you before I listened in on (some) of this programme. I strongly felt books were here to stay, no matter how popular e-readers became, but here are some facts you need to think about seriously (based on highlights from the programme). Are we the last generation of people who will actually buy paper books?

Remember the end of the LP (records)
Remember how we loved those LPs and 45s? (For younger people, these are what we called records.) They were nice, smooth, round and could be considered larger CDs. I remember my uncle playing his Bob Marley LPs when I was a little girl. He had some black ones and some gold ones (he took special care of those gold ones). I wasn't old enough to buy any of my own, and have never owned any, but I know people who had vast collections of records. We never thought we'd see the day when we would and could no longer buy LPs in music stores, but that day came and went and we hardly noticed. We just shopped for CDs and let the tide roll in and swallow up our beloved records. Nowadays, we don't even buy CDs any more. We leave that for the elderly. I have kids who would never own a CD. Why would they buy them when they can easily download cheaper music and get exactly what they want without having to buy the tracks they dislike too? Like records, is this the end of books?

Remember the end of the dial telephone?
No one kicked up a fuss when we were first introduced to the touch pad telephone. Remember those ones with the little holes that you had to put your finger through and follow round? Did you rave when they went? Do you miss them? Were you one of the first people to buy one of the touch pad ones for your home? Did you show it to all your friends? Did you think you were progressive when you got rid of your dial telephone in favour of a touch pad one? My kids don't know what they are. And unless we go to a science museum, they won't ever see one. They think that my new touch pad mobile (cell) phone is old-fashioned. It seems that touch screen is the way to go. Like the dial telephone, is this the end of books of the paper kind?

Remember the end of old cameras with the black curtains?
I'm sure you're not old enough to have ever used one. But do you remember seeing pictures of those old cameras where the photographers had to cover them - and his own head - with a thick, black curtain? I bet they were glad to see the back of those. Then came the cameras which took pictures you had to take to the chemist to get developed. I still own one of these, but I haven't used it in years. My kids would never own one of these. Why would they, though? They'd prefer to store all their pictures digitally and delete the ones they don't like before they were printed. Instead of storing pictures in heavy albums they had to invite people home to see, they'd rather walk around with a small collection of their pictures, housed inside something smaller than their bunch of keys. Like the old cameras with the black curtains, is this the end of books?

Is this the end of books, really?
Once there were scrolls, the only form of 'books', where all the writings of the world were stored. Most of them are gone now and the few which are left are kept in museums. We've forgotten about them and never use them as a reading 'device'. The world realised we could make paper, write on them, and make better 'books'.

Then there were Monks who were put in charge of writing out books by hand. They worked well and relatively fast, but once the world realised that we could do the work much faster, easier and cheaper by using a printing press, we did! 

The printing press worked wonders for the world of books. The elite held the 'print strings' and even to today, publishers and literary agents are the ones who dictate what we would like to read, what we should read, and who we read. Then the world discovered e-books. At the same time we realised that the elite few need not decide for us. That we could determine for ourselves, what we want to read. Remember when we played the game, Patience (Solitaire) with cards? Those were the days when we read books from paper and followed the rules few publishers set down in concrete for the multitude of us. 

Is this the end of books? Conclusion
If this is the end of books I do feel sad. And yes, even a little anxious and scared. After all, I love books and even write them. A lot of the other 'funerals' I mentioned above happened when I was younger and still forming who I was. I wasn't really concerned. If the end of books hits us it will be during my adulthood, and of course, I'll have to change the way I see and do things. I don't want to do this. The end of books - if it does occur - will not affect the next generation as much as it will affect us. However, it's actually the next generation that matters because they'll be the one living on long after we're gone. They will be the ones shopping for e-books, downloading free e-books and buying Kindles for their kids. 

Which begs the question; will I ever have to buy a huge desk for my daughter to keep her university text books (when she eventually gets to that age), or will I simply be buying her something like an i-Pad on which she'll store her entire text-book library? If the end of books does occur, what does this mean for the present Literary Agents and book publishers? What do you think? And for those people who fight this saying, 'But I love the smell of books' our kids - the next generation - would they be bothered? Besides, as I thought (just before the voice of the BBC programme said it) someone will develop an app that gives you a particular smell with every book you download. 

Additional question:
If this is the death of books? What 5 books would you always keep on that dwindling bookshelf of yours? 

And speaking of e-books and e-readers. Did you know you could buy a kindle for as little as £79.00. I bought my husband one last year for nearly twice that amount. Swindled! I was :-)

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Icy BC December 14, 2011 at 11:35 PM  

Well Anne, I don't like the idea that it's the end of books for the same reasons as you. But it looks like we are heading quickly into that direction.

The only thing I like about reading devices are the pricing! Some schools here are talking about getting the Kindle devices for the kids, and they will save so much money in the long run.

Textbooks could drain your savings account and break your arm in just one stop!

Anne Lyken-Garner December 15, 2011 at 11:12 AM  

I know. I would still use paper books. There was a discussion on Facebook when I put the link up. I don't think they read the post, but one interesting thing that came out of the discussion was that poorer nations would not be able to afford the kindle, especially since you have to rely on electricity to get it working.

SquirrelQueen December 16, 2011 at 5:24 AM  

I remember many of those things you mentioned. Remember the Polaroid camera?

I think books will be around for awhile longer but will gradually decline as the older generations die out. The brick and mortar book stores are already seeing the decline and if they don't adapt they will not survive. Print newspapers and magazines are also feeling the effects of our digital world.

It really wouldn't bother me that much if paper books went away. I already read a lot of ebooks. I don't have a Kindle but I downloaded a Kindle ap for my laptop.

I wonder if there was a discussion such as this when the printing press was invented? Did anyone miss the hand lettered parchment? Probably.

Anne Lyken-Garner December 16, 2011 at 11:25 AM  

I do remember the Polariod camera, Judy. It was quite enjoyable to use, wasn't it?

It's a pity about the book stores. One recently died in my high street. I think we'll see that happening more and more. It's not a good thing, but I think sadly, it's inevitable.

I do wonder about the discussions over the printing press too. :-)

Blogger Broadcast December 20, 2011 at 4:33 AM  

Not for me yet, but almost. I am trying to go with less, meaning more digital.

Anne's a published author, freelance writer and experienced editor. She's just signed her second publishing contract this year with 2 separate publishing houses. You can hire her or see her available books in the side panel on the right.
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