Books as a dying species

Are they? Are books really a dying species? And what exactly is this question’s intended meaning? Does it aim at the battle between ‘conventional’ books and eBooks? Or does it refer to the claim that people read less and less these days? Since we are technically reading more than ever through social media platforms and the internet in general, it is more likely that it inquires whether the beloved, yet endangered, medium ‘book’ will survive. Although the book market has hit a rough patch in recent years, the medium ‘book’ will prevail because it is easy on the environment, on the eyes, and on our brains.

            Books are anything but environmentally friendly – or so many people allege, and yet recycling a book is easy in comparison to recycling an electronic device. The production of books requires a lot of wood, water, and energy; all three of which take a toll on the environment, as adversaries are always quick to point out. Too much of a toll for books that are read only once, as they claim. However, they tend to omit that both the production and the recycling of an electronic device, such as a tablet or eReader, are indefinitely more hazardous. And with refined recycling procedures for paper, the use of recycled paper to print new books, and books being printed only on demand, their claims are rendered obsolete.

            Books are “heavy, hard to ship and not customisable”[1], whereas an eBook only needs a little memory space, can be downloaded in seconds, and allows the reader to customise the font, the font size, and the spacing. Apart from these benefits, there are a myriad of free eBooks, even though often of questionable origin, readily available on the internet. But when it comes to the reader’s haptic sense, eBooks simply cannot hold their own. Browsing through a real book and turning its pages simply does not compare to tapping on the cold screen of an electronic device. Additionally, books are for more than just reading­ ­- they are meant to be displayed and have an inherent aesthetic and artisanal value.

Books are one-sided and not much use for anything else. Contrary to electronic devices which offer the reader a multitude of possibilities like dictionaries, internet access, and note taking apps. And that is also the crux of the matter. Electronic devices are distractive where books are immersive. All these options are more likely to inhibit one’s reading process than support or even further it. Even more, electronic reading can negatively impact the brain’s response to the text. Essentials as reading comprehension and focus are also closely linked to the medium and negatively impacted by electronic devices.

            These are all purely logical reasons why the medium ‘book’ will survive. Yet the survival will probably be based on less rational reasons, because most readers simply dislike electronic reading or revert to it for practical reasons only, for example when taking a trip with limited baggage space. As practical as eBooks may be, most readers, myself included, frankly just prefer having the actual book at hand. There may come a time when the reading community actually becomes ‘biliteral’, but it is doubtful that the book will ever become extinct.

[1] Nuwer, Rachel (2016) „Are paper books really disappearing?” Web. [http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160124-are-paper-books-really-disappearing] (Date of Access: 11 April 2017)

 

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