Visiting the Delhi Book fair has always been a yearly ritual for me. When I told one of my friends about the same, she quizzed, ''Why buy those overpriced books when you can always download them?”
I thought, well for some it might be a lot easier to manage if they just downloaded all those books to an iPad or Kindle. But for me, there is something about the print which I can never give up. The act of holding a book in your hands and turning pages one after another and the level of immersion it offers just can't be matched with pixels on a screen. Digital versions of books certainly can't impart profound connections.
Well, an important question struck me then, what really is the future of the book?
Have books become as dead as dodo? In an ever metamorphosing technological era, are those crisp pages being completely superseded by swanky gadgets? Do people now enjoy scrolling down more than flipping pages?
Recently, I read about one such case which got me thinking again.
Like a scientist cataloging the last of an endangered species, Dutch photographer Reinier Gerritsen, who thinks books won't be around much longer, wandered the New York City subway system for weeks, snapping pictures of readers of printed books among an increasingly dominant population of iPhone and Kindle readers.
“This is how it goes. Everything is always changing, but there’s a beautiful phenomenon that’s vanishing. That’s why I wanted to document it,” he said.
His words saddened me.
It's certainly too soon to predict the future because there is still a huge mass of passionate readers out there. But will such readers be able to transfer that passion on to their children and infuse that same loyalty within them?
The rise of the digital technology has added fuel to such fears and underlined the gradual transformation that doesn't seem rosy, at least to me. E-books and internet websites have led to the gradual demise of the printing matter and they are slowly descending into oblivion.
Some of my fears got confirmed when I looked up the facts. Amazon recently announced it was selling more e-books than print books - hardcover and paperback combined.
Peering on the other side, digital book publishing is emerging to be an exciting new industry with truly amazing potential for growth which offers lower publishing costs and a host of new opportunities to potential writers. Standing on the brink of a world that's changing minute-by-minute, acceptance seems to be the better option here, but shouldn't everything beautiful stay the same!
Book shops have started to disappear. Magazines sales have gone down. Newspapers have cut their book review sections. Authorities of publishers are getting challenged. So, basically this paper-based information delivery is losing its charm. Instead, virtual libraries and e-books are spontaneously materializing over the Internet to fill the void. The statistics bear testimony to this fact. I fear of such a future where books would be considered as no less than antique items.
As modern readers, we are constantly shifting between two goal posts, on one side is the nostalgia -driven smell of the lost good old days when the printed word held its sway and on the other side is the seduction of the newfangled technology's appeal.
Will the book be able to survive the onslaught of the dominion of the digital world? Instead of being subsumed by E-books, can not the printed format thrive well and live side-by-side? I hope, it does!
Yet, I feel, for the people who truly love books, print is the only medium that will quench their hearts!