Are books dying?

As the digital world continues to expand in size and scope, are hard copies of books becoming a dying breed? Will upcoming generations cease to experience the wonder of opening a book for the first time—running their fingers over the pages, smelling the fresh paper, and hearing the binding crackle?

The future of all reading endeavors? Photograph from Sunset/Rex.

The future of all reading endeavors? Photograph from Sunset/Rex.

Statistics

  • Americans bought over 750 million books in 2010
  • 1.53 billion Americans visited a public library in 2011
  • Book sales in the US declined 9.3% in 2012
  • Random House and Penguin, two of the world’s six largest publishers, have merged in order to combat large companies like Amazon
  • E-books account for only 20% of total books sales

The Transition to Digital

The transition to books being available in a digital format is undeniable. While online books and e-readers are convenient and provide access to a greater variety of materials quickly, according to author Lloyd Shepherd, “There is a deeper, much more existential concern: that, basically, all readers are ultimately freeloaders and want to get books for free… the transition to digital devices will see an explosion in piracy and a collapse in pricing.” Although there has not been extensive research regarding this claim, what companies, such as Netflix, have done to ones like Blockbuster could be telling in terms of how digital books will affect hard copies.

Hope for the Hard Copy

However, despite a 48-times increase of e-book sales in four years, hardcover and paperback sales have remained steady. In addition, the argument has been made that the tactile experience of holding a book and turning the pages feels more important, more human. Kathleen Parker writes, “Admit it: You print out the stories you really want to study. Consider, too, how differently we consider a handwritten letter versus an e-mail. Even an e-mail printed out seems more important — more concrete — than what we view on the screen.” I agree with Parker and believe that our human nature will sustain hard copies, although we should be quick to embrace the inevitable changes brought about by the digital age.

For More Info

Lainey Godwin is a senior at Texas Christian University, majoring in Political Science and minoring in English. Upon graduation, she is moving to Madrid, Spain to teach English as a Second Language.

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