Whenever a new piece of technology pops up in the mainstream world, people get all up in arms about what it means for the prior piece of “technology”, for the previous way of doing things. When CD players came around it was all “OMG! What will happen to my cassette tapes?!” and then MP3 players came on the scene and it was all “OMG! What will happen to all my CDs?!” and so on. We won’t even go back as far as the record (which people still collect) and 8-tracks. Do some things become obsolete? Kind of. It’s true I do know someone who’s still listening to tapes in his car, but he’s a rarity.
So of course when Kindle and Nook and all those other e-readers started popping up, everyone’s first outcry was “Won’t someone think of the books?!?” closely followed by “I just *LOVE* to hold a book. To smell a book. I can’t possibly adapt to anything other than a bunch of bound paper in my hand!” Yeah, yeah. I still know people like that, and it’s fine. I get it, but adapting is a way of life folks and you may have to do it at some point…but probably not with books.
That’s right. I said it. I don’t think books are going to fall to the wayside and die a quiet death like the 8-track. Do I think digital books will gain popularity and more people will lean that way? Yes. It’s easier to get e-books, you can find lots for free, it’s perfect for lazy hermit type folks who don’t want to leave their houses, etc. I think people will still want their physical copies to put on their shelves, but maybe not copies of everything they’ve ever read. Even I don’t want to display some of the things I’ve read because they were either bad or well…I just don’t want people to know I read them! Hah. I do think if something is good enough, people will want the hard cover or paperback to proudly display on their shelves, to take to book signings and to sit on their bare coffee tables.
I also don’t think libraries are going to be obsolete. Might they try to evolve and move things more digitally? Why yes, I do suspect they will since we have already seen that movement from physical card catalogs to computerized catalogs. They’ve also uploaded many professional published articles to their online databases. It makes life easier, but that doesn’t mean the books aren’t there for people to pull out, photocopy, take notes from, etc.
There are always going to be the people who aren’t into electronics or can’t afford to buy the pricey items. The libraries and bookstores will still be there for them. I go to the local bookstore often for my writing group and there are always people milling around browsing and buying. I don’t expect that to change any time soon.
As someone who buys the majority of her books digitally, even I’m not ready to give up the physical completely. My proof? Two awesomely amazing books purchased this week that I will proudly display on my shelves !