In this increasingly disillusioned and greedy world in which we live it seems to be the most important aspects of our society and of our human nature that suffer. I consider the world of physical books to be a sacred and essential part of our humanity and yet many regard this domain as out-dated and in danger of becoming extinct. But I’m sure that will never happen…will it? Don’t we, as part of our human nature, rely on the book as a universal touch point? Don’t books make us feel safe and connected to each other and our past in a fundamentally human way? But books may be facing a grim future with the large book sellers, such as Borders, increasingly closing their doors. Of course as with anything in this global economic climate, there are other significant factors contributing to the downturn in book sales but could it be an ominous sign of things to come?
It’s fair to say the biggest factor in the demise of bookstores in our neighbourhoods was the Amazon juggernaut with it’s 24 hour a day access to book buying. The more sedentary (Lazy? Alienated from each other?) we humans become the more the convenience of online purchasing appeals to us. You have the world at your fingertips without so much as a “Hello, how is your day? I’d like to buy a book, what do you recommend?’
I was startled last year to hear Amazon’s announcement that Kindle books are outselling hardcovers and paperbacks. Their May 2011 press release stated that for every 100 print books sold 105 Kindle books were sold with the numbers continuing to rise. In April 2012 they reported that ‘Kindle Fire remains the #1 bestselling, most gifted, and most wished for product across the millions of items available on Amazon.com since launch. In the first quarter, 9 out of 10 of the top sellers on Amazon.com were digital products – Kindle, Kindle books, movies, music and apps.’
Publishers and the author’s themselves seem to be able to adapt to this changing medium, whether or not they like it. BookStats, the annual statistical survey of raw sales revenue and unit data provided by nearly 2,000 publishers shows book sales in the U.S. are expanding. While total revenue and sale units grew for the publishing industry between 2008 and 2010, e-book revenue for trade publishers increased by 1274% each year.
But not all consumers feel happy with this soulless e-book outbreak, feeling it reflects badly on our human nature. Social commentator Carl King says on his website in an article titled Why Bookstores are closing down, ‘A bookstore is An Environment For Discovery. A Gallery of Written Ideas’, suggesting this could well be the age of the boutique bookstore. No longer the domain of large chains with huge property portfolios, booksellers are more likely to make a happy profit selling unique, specialised and second hand books, expanding their product range to include other items that appeal to book lovers, such as gifts, stationary, even garden accessories, in a comfortable, cosy, living room type environment.
There is nothing more pleasurable than spending time in well-loved book store amongst beautiful knickknacks, dreamy music, comfy armchairs with a warm cup of tea in the company of others. Even if that books store also provides Kindles and iPads for browsing e-books.
So, in honour of the humble printing press book and those of us who love the simple pleasure of sitting down with one to read, I feel duty bound to state why hardcopy books are an intrinsic part of our human nature, a medium that should be preserved as we hurtle full speed into an electronic future.
- It must firstly be said that the tactile sensation of holding a book in your hands is pure bliss. A fresh or tattered front cover, embossed lettering or cloth covering, turning the pages and savouring the feeling of paper between your fingers, heavy or slight. The smell of the pages, old or new, the colours and images, the words.
- There is the lovely thought of others having sat in an armchair or cuddled up in bed and turned the same pages as you. You might be lucky enough to have a former owner’s notes in the margin or a hand written message in the front of the book, a gift to or from someone you may or may not know. Passing on a book you love to another human is an unsurpassed, simple pleasure, a gift for both the giver and the receiver.
- A book is a comfortable possession, like a warm blanket or a pair of slippers, something you don’t have to be too precious about. You can spill tea on it, you can read it to a child who is covered in peanut butter and cat hair. A good book retains the physical signs of those who have loved it!
- A book can be a vehicle for emotion, you can cry into it, become enraged by it and tear at the pages (you can always sticky tape them back together). No matter what you do to a book, short of burning it, it will be there for you when you’re ready to pick it up again.
- Lastly, the idea of an author’s love and life on every page of every copy of their gift to human nature, what could be worth preserving more than that.
Fran Bran splits her time between work, travel and giving back to the internet through numerous article pages & blogging. She enjoys discovering our world and finds herself increasingly reading ideas presented at the World Transformation Movement which contains rational, biological explanations to questions about life.