Are Books Becoming Obsolete?
“Do you think books will someday become obsolete in the next twenty years?” a friend recently asked me. Of course, I emphatically answered, “NO!” But then I got to thinking. People can access the written word through all sorts of devices. You’re reading this blog post on a device. Could it be possible that some day books, bookstores, and libraries will become obsolete? Again, I emphatically say, “NO!”
Let me explain. First of all, there is something inherently special about holding an actual book in your hands. Each book is a brightly wrapped present, containing a wonderful surprise. The shape, the texture of the pages, the colors on the cover, even the smell, all contribute to that happy feeling you get when you pick up a book. Books, like people, are unique, each one with a story to tell.
Books Are Memories
Books become memories that are easily accessed. Every time I pick up a copy of The Hobbit, I am transported back in time, sitting at the dining room table, listening to my mother read the chapter about Bilbo besting Gollum with riddles.
Getting a new textbook in elementary school was always a special nerdy moment of mine. I loved the feel of the crisp pages, that new book smell, and being the first one to write my name and date on the inside cover of the book. School book orders would also fill me with excitement. Circling books I had to have, then carefully clipping the order form, I would turn in my money and get ready for the longest two-week wait of my life. I still have a few tattered copies of my favorite fantasy books by Ruth Chew.
Books Are Like Sharks
Neil Gaiman quotes Douglas Adams in his 2013 Reading Agency Lecture: “a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them.”
E-book Sales Are Down
When I’m reading a book, I lose myself in another world with no distractions. If I’m reading on a device, the urge to stop and check messages impedes my ability to completely immerse myself in the story. According to Alexandra Alter’s 2015 New York Times article “Plot Twist: E-book Sales Slip, and Print is Far from Dead,” independent booksellers are seeing a reverse migration to print from e-readers. This article gives me hope that books will always be a part of our culture.
YOU also give me hope. Librarians are lovers of literature. As long as we are putting books in the hands of children, we are passing that heritage along. They will grow up with their book memories and pass them on to their children.
This year, give the gift of reading, give someone a favorite book as a present. I have a Little Free Library at my school. The books will be wrapped in holiday paper and labeled with the following genre tags:
- “If you are in elementary school and like __________, take me home.”
- “If you are in middle school and like _____________, take me home.”
- “If you are in high school and like __________take me home.”
- “If you are an adult and like ___________, take me home.”
I’m going to put a giant bow on the top of the Little Free Library with a sign that says, “Happy Holidays from the Book Fairy.”
Alexandra Alter, “Plot Twist: E-book Sales Slip, and Print is Far from Dead” New York Times, Sept. 23, 2015, https://nyti.ms/1QXZyvn.
Neil Gaiman, “Reading and Obligation,” The Reading Agency, Oct. 14, 2013, https://readingagency.org.uk/news/blog/neil-gaiman-lecture-in-full.html.
Author: Colleen R. Lee
Colleen R. Lee is a former middle school English teacher and Elementary Teacher. She is currently the Elementary Librarian at Greenfield Elementary School in Chesterfield County, VA. Follow her on Twitter @MrsLeesLibrary.