When technology goes bad…

Books are one of the greatest pleasures life has to offer. To read is to escape, to be released from the place you currently inhabit and be set free.

Speaking as someone who is usually 100% behind the relentless movement of technology the one thing that I truly fear is that books will become replaced by devices such as the Kindle or the ipad.

There is something so wonderful, so tactile and all consuming about reading a book. From the feeling in your hands, to the smell as you open the pages – whether that is the crisp synthetic smell of treated paper in a brand new press, or the musty scent of aged wood in a first edition you scored from a widows garage sale. It is an experience, an immersion.

And what does technology offer us by way of resolve? Cost benefits and room savings? The ability to have video embedded within the page? These things do not make up for what is lost (indeed I would argue that video or movement within the page strips an essential quality from the experience of reading).

Last year book sales fell an estimated 7.1% according to Nielsen BookScan, with the value of sales dropping 12.6% to $1.1 billion. E-book data is difficult to get a handle on as there is no central research group collecting data and not all providers of e-books are open with their data, however several industry pundits have estimated that Australian patterns would closely mirror that of the US.

The figures show that for the first month of this year, eBook sales were up by 115.8% compared to January 2010, representing $US69.9 million.

During the same period, sales of hardcovers fell by 11.3% to $49.1 million, while paperbacks fell from $56.4 million to $39 million.

Smart Company

This is a terrifying pattern, and while I know that in my lifetime devices will never completely usurp physical books, the thought that in only a few generations paper books could be something only collectors and the third world remember is both depressing and unsettling.

My hope is that before this happens there will be a renaissance of reading, a rekindling of the love affair between (wo)man and book.

Do yourself a favour… buy a book, pour a glass of wine, turn off the computer and TV, and fall in love again.

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