“An Ancestral Links, LLC Article.”


Will book worms soon make the endangered list?


The smell of paper, the rustle of pages, the feel of a weighty book in your hand. Nothing beats snuggling up on the sofa with a great paperback, turning each page expectantly, losing yourself in another world. At least, that’s what some think. Increasingly, people are turning to e-readers such as Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook or tablets such as Apple’s iPad to read from. A whole generation is being brought up on e-readers rather than hard copy books and as prices drop and e-readers become easier to use, so numbers forgoing book shops will rise. The question is, what does this mean for the future of books and are there any long-term consequences for e-reader consumers?


There’s no escaping it - e-readers are here to stay and they are steadily becoming more and more prevalent. Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble are now reporting that ebook sales outstrip their sales of physical books. So why have ebooks become so popular? It seems all roads lead to one conclusion - convenience. At one click of a button you can purchase a book and have it in your e-library, ready to read in seconds. It is possible to travel with hundreds of books and not break your back or be charged extortionate excess baggage fees. Text is easily readable, whatever the light and however good your eyesight as e-readers and tablets provide their own light source, and zoom functions and letter resizing mean that you can tailor the text to your needs.


In today’s world, where everything runs to the beat of convenience and instant gratification, sometimes to the detriment of health or ability to perform (think fast food or calculators on phones that mean no-one has to engage their brains to calculate anything anymore), everyone strives to find the easiest method possible in every situation. However, not everything benefits from being convenient. The view from the top of the mountain is far more breathtaking if you’ve just climbed your way up, and cupcakes are far tastier if you’ve made them yourself. Not everything needs to be high-speed or technologically advanced; one of the joys of reading is the enforced slower pace and its simplicity, and that goes for purchasing books as well as reading them. For a bibliophile, hours spent browsing in a bookshop is one of the great pleasures of reading - stepping into a building devoted to the written word, scanning shelves, taking books out, flipping through them, maybe taking them to a comfy old chair, before finally discovering a real gem or two.


And there you have the fundamental problem with e-books: they depersonalize the entire reading experience, from start to finish. People who love books love the tactile aspect of the book itself ,the way they nurture the soul as well as the mind, which is something that technology can never replicate. A book offers an experience, whereas an e-reader reduces a book to words on a screen. For many, part of that experience is sharing a book they have fallen in love with. However, if e-books take over, sharing books will become a thing of the past. Kindle does now have a limited lending facility but it is possible only to lend a book once and for a period of just 14 days, despite the fact you have bought the book. Therein lies another major flaw to e-books - you can never truly own one. When it comes down to it, you merely own the rights to read the contents of a digital file, something that thousands of Kindle users found out the hard way one day in 1999 when they discovered that their copy of 1984 had suddenly been removed after a disagreement with the copyright holder. All accounts were credited but it illustrates the sheer transience of an ebook.


A much-debated issue has been that of whether e-readers cause Computer Vision Syndrome, or CVS, a repetitive stress condition that is characterized by headaches, blurred vision and eye strain. The electronic ink displays utilized by most e-readers, with their sharply defined type and soft lighting, are supposed to more closely mimic pages rather than screens but recent studies suggest that reading e-ink screens causes the same amount of eye strain as the backlit LCD screens of computers and tablets. Besides, if you work in front of a computer screen all day, do you really want to relax in front of one? Isn’t one of the delights of reading in the 21st century the ability to escape the digital world for a rare hour or two?


Whether e-readers cause eye strain or not, there are still many disadvantages associated with them, aesthetics, nostalgia and romanticism aside. Books can take a battering, whilst e-readers do not fare well if they are dropped, trod on, or have anything spilt on them. Not many would be happy to take their e-reader to the beach and they are not especially child-friendly. They are rather expensive to replace if dropped in the bath or buried in sand. Physical books have stood the test of time but software and hardware can become obsolete in a mere few years - how long will you really be able to keep that cherished digital file for? Indeed, can you ever ‘cherish‘ a digital file in the same way you can cherish a beloved copy of your favorite novel?


In the brave new world of the e-book there will be no rare first editions, no signed copies, no personal inscriptions. There will be no second-hand bookshops - no longer will you feel history beneath your fingertips, decades worth of readers devouring the very book you are holding. With no need for physical books there will be no shelves groaning under the weight of books, adding warmth and personality to a home. The digital, internet-led world we now live in has had a huge and irreversible impact on newspapers and music and the way things are going, books look set to be similarly affected. With more and more bookshops going into administration, books may soon be a thing of the past as book worms falter on the endangered list. But what a crying shame that would be.    


                                                                                                         Written by Rodriguez Maindron


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