The advent of eBooks has dramatically changed the way we think about reading, giving us the opportunity to download books without having to worry about the latest bestseller selling out, or having to pore through the meagre book choices at an airport in search of something to read on our holidays. Electronic means of reading books, either on our computer, tablets, dedicated eBook readers like the Kindle and Nook, or even on our phones, mean we have access to a wealth of books whenever we want them, and also don’t have to think about storing or packing them away. It is also possible to discover all kinds of new writers, because many unsigned authors self publish their work on eBook stores like the Amazon store and the Apple iBook store, often for free or at very little cost.
All in all, most people would agree that eBooks are a fantastic invention. However, for many people, the idea of the ‘real’ hardback or paperback book is one that they wouldn’t like to see become completely redundant. Here are some of the reasons why:
Real Books Are Always Available
Things that require technology inevitably can go wrong, or at the very least run out of power. While your iPad might run out of juice on that long journey, you can always pull out a paperback book to keep yourself entertained. It doesn’t need you to remember your password and account details, it will never crash, and it will always be possible to use it (unless you drop it in the swimming pool on holiday, but that wouldn’t do your tablet or Kindle a lot of good either!). Simple things are often the most resilient, so if you absolutely need reliable entertainment on a plane, train or other period of ‘dead time’, then a paper book can be the best choice.
Paper Books Have a Value
Digital books can be reproduced limitlessly, but paper ones are printed in separate runs. First editions of popular books can be worth a fortune, and of course, real books can also come in special editions, or even be signed by the author. These give them a special value both in financial terms and as unique physical items. It would be impossible for you to get JK Rowling to sign your copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows if you saw her out shopping, if you only had it on your Nook! Even ordinary copies of books have some value and can be sold on to used book stores, or at the very least donated to charity once you have finished with them.
While eBooks and the devices that support them are great for giving readers a lot of flexibility and helping them be able to source books they may not otherwise be able to find, there are a lot of reasons why paper books, just like vinyl records, won’t ever completely go away. Whether as collector’s items or reliable entertainment when technology isn’t available, books will always have a place in people’s lives.