Ever since Amazon first launched its Kindle in 2007, die-hard book fanatics have been lamenting the death of the book. Gone are the days of sniffing that glorious new book smell; of queuing up for hours outside a bookstore to get your hands on a new release; of cursing your airline’s luggage restrictions for limiting the number of books you can take to Spain. The physical book is dying, or is already dead – depending on your outlook.
Or is it?
Although it is true that printed book sales have declined since the rise of the eBook, the physical tome is still well and truly alive. In fact, in 2014 we spent £1.7bn on physical books, compared to just £393m on eBooks. Moreover, it seems the initial eBook hype is dying down. Sales of the electronic literary companion have stagnated, with Kindle sales peaking at 13.44 million in 2011 and dropping to 9.7 million in 2012. It seems we’re not ready to give up our paper publications quite yet.
Whilst the physical book is clearly not dead yet, you can’t deny that the rise of technology has changed the landscape of reading. The immediate downloadability of an eBook gives us the instant gratification that we so desire in this modern world, but it also alters the experience of buying a book. We no longer need to wander round bookstores, picking volumes up at random. Although this new system is undoubtedly more convenient, it is easy to see why purists are up in arms. The internet and technology have removed some of the wonder of book buying.
Of course, just because people can use technology to buy books, doesn’t mean they always do. The figures above prove that; and the very existence of our shop suggests that people still enjoy aimlessly browsing shelves with the hope of finding an unexpected gem.
Technology will always plough forward and alter the ways of the world – but that doesn’t mean the old ways will die. And besides, sometimes change is a good thing. I’m sure the monks of old cursed the invention of the printing press for destroying the art of manuscripts, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone now who thinks we should go back to the old way of doing things. Perhaps in fifty years time we’ll be wondering why we ever bothered with paper in the first place.
Although, should that happen, we would have to come up with a new way to raise money. So maybe let’s not give up on the physical book just yet. After all, what would the people of York do without the Oxfam Bookshop of Low Petergate?
Featured image courtesy of Zhao