Monday, August 23, 2010

The future of books.

Electronic books save on paper. Are they really greener?   There is still controversy on this. Trees are a renewable resource. Yet, electronic books do not use up landfills, unless they become unusable. That, of course, would happen at a much slower rate than physical books. At the same time, I cannot envision a world without books. My son loves the "ology" Pirateology, Dragonology, Egyptology, where he can open and discover wonderful pictures and hidden treasures. He and I both enjoy the art of pop-up books. There are some very creative books on the market which combine the written word with art. Would an electronic book truly reproduce the beautiful "table" art books available? I wonder if a future reader would truly appreciate Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night" on a 3 to 7 inch screen? For this purpose I am assuming the screen is in full color. (Currently Amazon's Kindle is not, although it's just a matter of time until it is.)  Imagine, if you will, a city wide blackout. I have experienced this many times. What will you do with an electronic reader once the batteries are exhausted. If you do not have a car where you can recharge it, you cannot read. Even a solar powered reader will lose its charge at night after time. Not everyone will be able to afford an e-reader. What about the poor child whose family cannot provide such a device? Would he be lost without the paper book, which he can borrow from a library? One can only assume that the library will loan out e-readers. Even so, we can refer back to the whole power supply issue.    
     I truly believe that there is a place for both electronic books and paper books. Of course, we need to have paper books for reading. Here's someone who is using books for a house. Electronic books are not going to go away. We might as well accept this. Yet, I am reminded of H.G. Well's story The Time Machine, where the main character goes to the future only to discover the demise of books. He is shocked at the sight of books which crumble to his touch. Then there is Fahrenheit 451 where individuals memorize books in order to preserve them in a world of book destruction. I understand that e-books preserve information. However, they can be erased. They can be unreadable during a power outage when the batteries have died. They cannot be touched, shelved or admired as a creative object. I believe the physical book is an art form which deserves to be preserved. I remember a time when people were aghast at the ideal of vinyl albums disappearing. They said it would never happen. Alas, despite the opposition, it did, indeed happen. There was a time when those in the radio business were convinced that television would never last. Again, it lasted and over took the radio shows of the day. This is the way civilization evolves. Someday, we will no longer have CD's with music. Eventually, all music will be digital only. It seems hard to believe to those who have yet to cross over to the digital music age.  There will always be impoverished individuals who would have no access to technological advances. The physical book can be found in libraries, in second hand shops and be given out to the needy. Technology needs to be maintained, which some people simply cannot do. I truly hope, for the sake of future generations, that civilization leaves room for both types of books.

1 comment:

Denny said...

I agree wholeheartedly! I will fight for the physical book. I love electronic books too, but love the feel and convenience of a physical book.