Book Wrap: Are books going the way of the dinosaurs?
How many times have you heard people complain that modern technology is turning us into a nation of illiterates? When texting first became popular, some saw the use of messages like ‘c u l8r m8 lol’ as representing at the very least the death of the English language and at worst the end of civilisation itself.
Some of the most significant recent progress has been in the fields of tablets and ereaders and many think that they now represent a real threat to the very existence of traditional books. From our perspective, judging by the amount of book boxes we seem to be selling, any threat that might exist doesn’t appear to be imminent. But what about in the longer term and how will that affect Davpack?
The pros and cons of ereaders
On the face of it, why wouldn’t you go for the ereader? It has the capability of storing hundreds or even thousands of books on something no bigger than, well, a paperback book. Early models may not have been massively user-friendly, but as each new version comes out, the reading experience gets better and better. And with thousands of books (ie the ones out of copyright) available free, you can now carry all the classics of English literature with you wherever you go.
But on the other hand, ereaders are unable to render illustrated books in a satisfactory way, and while the classics may be available free, new books aren’t really any cheaper than their paper equivalents. Christmas and birthdays are also likely to keep the book market buoyant – unwrapping a book is a far more satisfying experience than unwrapping a bit of paper telling you you have an electronic download. What about the sort of book one browses rather than reading from cover to cover? And then for many people, there’s just the sheer visceral and sensory thrill of opening a book.
The future of books and book packaging
There are too many people still around for whom books are way too precious to see them disappear just yet, and I don’t think we’ll be having to clear our warehouse of book wraps and boxes for some time! But we all know how fast technology is moving and, in much the same way that we’ve progressed from cathode ray televisions to flat screens to HDTV to 3DTV in next to no time, we can only guess at how ereaders will look in another ten or fifteen years.
As the technology becomes part of the daily life of future generations, it is perfectly feasible that all new books will be published in a digital format only. But that’s some way off, and even when it does happen, there would still be a huge market for second-hand books for many years afterwards. So we’re confident that we’ll be selling book packaging products well after it becomes of only academic interest to me!
The wider question is whether electronic books can attract new generations of readers in the same way that the traditional book has. Or will reading for pleasure become a thing of the past? One has to hope not, but only time will tell.