I’ve been reading a lot lately about people thinking the rise in popularity of eBooks and eBook readers (such as the Amazon Kindle) are heralding the end to the paperback book. As an owner of many paperback books myself as well as an Amazon Kindle, I can understand the good and bad points of both.
Paperback books became successful in 1935 when Penguin Books (for those who read, the name is undoubtedly familiar) started with just 10 reprinted titles of previous books. Booksellers were apprehensive at first to purchase them due to the low quality of the materials used to make them. However, this was done on purpose to keep the prices down and to make them appeal to a much broader audience. Over time, the trend of paperbacks caught on and up until very recently they were often the preferred format in which to purchase a book.
With the rise of many popular eBook readers in the past few years, publishers have seen the sales of their paperbacks declining much more rapidly. Many of these publishers think this is a signal that the end is coming for printed books and print media in general, but I don’t believe this is the case.
In regards to printed books, I absolutely love them. Something about reading a good book and smelling the freshly-printed pages while curled up on your couch is really comforting. For a long time, I was a holdout on purchasing an eBook reader. I was what many call a “purist”, and among other things I reasoned that my books would be around for a long time whereas an electronic reading device would break down much more quickly.
However, as my collection of books grew larger and I had to put many of them into storage, I realized that it was time to start considering the alternative. I just didn’t have room for all those books anymore, plain and simple. When I purchased my first eBook reader (in my case, the Amazon Kindle) I was a little resistant to becoming comfortable with it. Over time, that changed. The factors that made me grow to like them were the extremely long battery life (a couple of weeks, on average), the ability to download and immediately start reading a new book when my current book was finished, and the fact that it was lightweight and easily portable.
Currently, I have a few hundred books on my Kindle which I have been building up over the past 2 or 3 years. Unless there is some kind of collector’s edition of a book I like or if a book just isn’t available as an eBook, I will likely continue purchasing eBooks until whatever succeeds the eBook format comes out. For those of you out there still holding onto your printed books, I say to take the plunge… you will not be disappointed.
As for those that think paperbacks are going the way of the dinosaur, I think they are also wrong. There will always be those out there that prefer printed books and that are not as easily swayed as I was. Sure, sales may dip a little, but I doubt paperbacks (or printed books in general, for that matter) will disappear anytime soon. The day that happens (if that day ever comes), will certainly be both a disappointment at what has been lost while at the same time being the next step forward in our evolution as a society.