Can Books Survive In A Digital World?

Books come in many different shapes and guises from the traditional paperback to electronic and audio versions. The e-incarnation is the latest form to threaten the realm of traditional reading habits. But can old-fashioned books withstand the digital onslaught?

In the beginning

Books began by taking sheets of parchment and folding and cutting them to create pages that formed into manuscripts that could be comfortably held for reading.

Even though handmade books were made more than a thousand years earlier today’s books are usually associated with the invention of the printing press in the mid 1400s.

Gutenberg’s method continued for a number of centuries although advances in technology brought speed, ease of production and greater affordability to the original process.

The spread of books led to a greater sharing of knowledge among people, which led to greater social change and upheaval and, on occasion, rebellion.

Once books went mainstream they took on an additional quality as collectors and readers valued owning them and keeping them as well as reading them.

Libraries

Libraries became popular to hold and display collections of books suited to different tastes and as a way to reach a public who could not afford to pay.

Libraries had their rules for every aspect of book handling, not least for when arranging books in diminishing order of size from floor to ceiling to achieve the correctness of proportion in the spacing of shelves.

Large or heavy books and magazines and newspapers would be laid flat for ease of use and so be read at a table rather than wrestled with on one’s lap.

Libraries today are much more friendly and welcome the serious visitor with the same vigour as the casual and curious who want to enjoy being surrounded by countless books by countless writers.

Home libraries

Home libraries began life as formal and somewhat austere rooms but soon softened, as people gathered socially to discuss issues of concern.

Home libraries often doubled as studies where a reader would retreat for time with their favourite book or simply seek silence and solitude.

Home libraries often act as offices today where the size and demands of work have reduced to accommodate a simple laptop, printer and smartphone.

Bookshops

Bookshops must, of course, be mentioned as they traditionally dominated the display and sale of books; although never have they been so under threat.

Bookshops have served as the provider of knowledge to millions of people, as they flock to find favourites that draw them in and into other worlds.

Bookshops have changed in demeanour over the years to encourage the young and very young to visit and look and browse and find their own tall tales of delight.

SO, books have always brought us a world of knowledge and sharing but in the digital age they will have to prove their value to a new and different audience.