Future of the Book

Throughout history, the way in which we share stories and information has constantly evolved. From typewriters to computers, record stores to iTunes, and cinemas to DVDs, a lot has certainly changed.

During the last decade we have witnessed a massive change in book culture as books move from print to digital media.

The last twelve months alone have seen major bookstores such as Angus & Robertson and Borders disappear due to a shift towards online bookstores selling electronic books. Libraries, too, have felt the impact of this move.

This inevitably raises questions – what will happen to our independent bookshops? And, ultimately, what is the future of the book? Will it survive?

Ferntree Gully bookseller Dean Michael says yes. For six years he has travelled Victoria supplying books from publishers to district libraries, and has seen many changes take place – from the introduction of the e-book, to the arrival of other digital media, including new audio-book device the Playaway. In spite of this though, he is adamant that the book will survive, and that there will be an eventual downturn in digital media.

‘Just because we’ve made e-books, it doesn’t mean that we’ll continue to need them,’ he says.

He also feels it would a sad day when children are not raised surrounded by books.

Many argue that there is no substitute for the scent of a written page, or being able to feel its texture with one’s fingers… the satisfaction of unearthing a good book one lazy afternoon in one’s favourite shop.

However, in an age where global resources are depleting and trees are indispensable, and when e-books are selling at as little as $2.99 a copy, there is also considerable reason to support a move towards digital media. Digitalising information through initiatives such as Google Books and Project Gutenberg are making it easier to access limitless information from anywhere in the world, at the click of a button.

It would seem that both mediums have their place. On one hand, an e-library in the palm of your hand isn’t too heavy to carry around. Then, on the other hand, a printed book will never run out of power right at the good part of a story!

Who knows what the future may hold… but of one thing we can be absolutely certain: whatever happens, a good read will never be too far away.

Article originally published in Gully News, June 2012 edition.

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