There is no doubt that as a society we are bombarded by media from the moment we wake until the moment our heads hit the pillow (or longer, if you fall asleep with the television on). News, movies, television, magazines, YouTube, Facebook, billboards, it’s everywhere. But what of books?
Quite possibly the oldest, and longest lasting form of media, books face an uphill battle in the face of quick media like blogs, Twitter, and social network status updates. Not to mention, many books are transformed into films or television spin-offs that make visual access more efficient than reading a few hundred pages.
Where does this leave the future of books? E-books are a huge phenomenon barely heard of only a few years ago. Amazon guru and Kindle backer, Jeff Bezos, would have you reading all of your books in digital format on his device, which retails for about $350. That, of course, does not include the cost of the books themselves, which can be downloaded for an average of $10 for each of the roughly 250,000 titles offered on the electronic medium. Kindle is even available on your iPod.
The Huffington Post advocates for the digitization of books, arguing that the electronic medium makes it possible to read in the dark, like while at a bar or in bed, without having to turn on a light or lug a heavy volume around with you.
But does that satisfy the same feeling as thumbing through page after page as you read? Are we trying to improve something that was perfect in it’s original form? I take great pride in looking at my bookcases and seeing the collection of books, both fiction and non-fiction, that I have accumulated throughout the years. Despite being broke in my days as a student, I rarely re-sold textbooks to the bookstore for credit. There is something to be said of the tangible quality of holding a book in your hands.
On the other hand, imagine the possibilities if devices such as Kindle were commonplace in schools. Imagine the possibilities of equipping students with a device pre-loaded with books, texts, and resources. Imagine if a student need only buy the device (or have it donated) and could read ahead, easily reference back to materials, and access new literature instantly, all in one place. The possibilities are endless. University students would love this idea. Purchase a Kindle for $350 (not that much more than the cost of a textbook or two), and offer texts, journal subscriptions, and other reference materail at a discounted rate. Universities could even include the device as part of tuition.
So while I am wary of the digitization of books for a variety of reasons, I also see the value. But personally, if I like a book, I will buy it…in it’s good old fashioned form. Sorry trees.