Friday, October 08, 2010

Three reasons why books will survive

Norm's concerned that he finds himself unable to enthuse about Kindles:
"Because I not only don't want to have a Kindle. It's more active than that: I want not to have one. The thing is, when I think of my books, or at least those of them that I really care about, and then think of no longer having them but having their contents on a Kindle, I feel bereft. Already. Just imagining that. For each of them, I want the actual book, not just the words the book contains. Is this some kind of magical thinking?"
Nah. It's always the same when some new technology comes out and everyone predicts that the old format will be eliminated as a consequence; it's a failure to recognise that just because something is technologically possible, people will find it desirable. Not just this: exclusively desirable.

But this is not so. What usually happens is that people will continue with the old technology and the new. People have DVD collections and go to the cinema. Video did not kill the radio star. A generation that is accustomed to downloads seem to have taken to vinyl. People shop online but still want to get out and about - and pick their own fruit and veg, thank you very much.

Same with books. They'll survive for at least three reasons:

1) Enough people share Norm's delight at the aesthetics of a book - the touch and feel of it, the smell of it. The look of it when you have mixed it with your labour...

2) Practicality. Handy, no doubt, to have a wealth of great novels in one pazzy package but what happens if you drop your Kindle in the bath? Something pretty awful, I'd imagine.

3) Ignorance and relative poverty. I didn't know what a Kindle was so I looked it up. Turns out I can't afford it right now but when I can, and if I do get one, I'll still keep the books for the reasons outlined in 1) and 2).

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