This makes me so sad. I’m one of those old-fashioned types who, despite owning an e-reader, would still rather crack open a new book :/
But the Globe says: When Borders on Boylston Street shutters, Boston will have, permanently, one fewer bookstore. Barnes & Noble won’t be eyeing its empty site as a possible location for expansion. Nor will we see any new bookstore start-ups. There are a great many business ideas where some entrepreneur can strike it rich; bookselling is no longer one of them.
The book is dead. Books (and by “books’’ I mean words printed on paper with a hard- or softcover binding) trace their inception in the 1440s to one extraordinary new technology: the printing press. New technology as well — readers, tablets, and smartphones — mark their end. It’s been a marvelous, nearly six-century ride, but now it’s over. Two weeks ago, the American Association of Publishers reported that January sales for adult hardcovers were down 11.3 percent, adult paperbacks were down 19.7 percent, and adult mass market books down 30.0 percent. Expect to see those kinds of numbers repeated.
Not all kinds of books will suffer as badly, of course. Children’s books and art books — where layout and graphics are paramount — will persist.
But when it comes to long-form, picture-free books such as novels, paper no longer makes sense. Electronic readers are this year’s hot-selling items because they really are a better way to read. They’re lighter, more portable, and easier to use. Turning pages is effortless. And as e-books can be readily linked to multiple devices, one is never without a book.
The death of the book will change things. For many, bookstores are special places of contemplation and discovery, and their loss will be deeply felt. Libraries too will have to rethink.
Libraries will perhaps evolve into public providers of information, but all of those beautiful buildings? Probably unnecessary.
Even our homes will change. The shelves on which we proudly display the books we have read (or haven’t, but hope to impress others) will stand empty. Indeed, the whole notion of “owning’’ books will eventually seem an oddity, in the same way that displays of CDs or DVDs seem irrelevant to a streaming world.
But is this really that bad? The end of books may be to the betterment of both writers and readers. The expense of publishing and distribution necessarily meant the imposition of middlemen — agents, editors, printers — who picked and chose what would get published. Now anyone can write a novel, for example, and make it available for sale.
What do you think? Is this really a good thing? Does it improve the world of writing to remove agents and publishers, because it improves access to publicity for aspiring writers — or is it another example of eliminating valuable expertise, as with professional journalists versus bloggers? Discuss.