There is now, almost inevitably, given the huge uptake of the Amazon Kindle, a Campaign for Real Books (Cambo).
The Cambo website says “The future is paper.” And that’s really the problem with books – paper.
As I’ve said before, books in bulk take up a hell of a lot of space, but apart from that, paper is just so ecologically unsound these days. I love the feel, and smell, of a new, unopened book, but I don’t think, in the long term, paper is sustainable. Ebooks are.
Cambo also says “Paper makes books worth reading,” which is as false a premise as you’re likely to come across outside a Lib Dem manifesto. What makes books worth reading is the content, that’s all. The fact that it’s on paper doesn’t make a crap book any better, any more than being in an electronic version will make a Booker Prize winner as down-market as Dan Brown.
I stopped buying newspapers years ago, reading them online instead. As well as being free, it also freed me from the need to dispose of a huge amount of paper, much of it unread and unwanted. So, if I’ve embraced epapers, I really can’t argue against ebooks, and I no longer do, having bought one of the first batch of Kindles recently – see previous pro-Kindle posts (you’ll also find some older, vehemently anti-Kindle posts too – opinions can change over time if you have an open mind).
Then there’s the quality of the books themselves, which is declining, with hardbacks being little more than paperbacks with stiff covers (see this post), and that’s just not good enough. When did you last buy a hardback that was stitched, as hardbacks should be, and not glued? That, surely, and the durability it brings, is why we’re willing to pay a high premium for hardbacks. Not to get a bloody paperback with delusions of grandeur.
I shall continue to buy new books, and used books, too, but at a much reduced level. For me, at least, the ebook is, if not the future, then a valid alternative to paper, with the long-term viability paper lacks (not the ebooks themselves, they’re as ephemeral as anything else stored in flash memory). And how long, I wonder, before supermarkets start to sell ebooks on cheap, low-capacity, memory cards? Is Tesco, even now, in negotiations with Amazon?
A viable alternative to paper is badly needed, because it would be a crime if books were to disappear, or to become an overpriced niche item, if for no better reason than books will survive far longer than ebooks.