Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

The future of the book

Posted on November 17, 2014 in Arts & Culture
By Krysteana Scribner

Reading books digitally is becoming more and more common. Even with more titles becoming available and e-book costs going down, some still crave the smell of musty old libraries and think that the printed word is here to stay.

USM hosted a panel of print-lovers last week to discuss the future of the printed book, giving predictions and possibilities about the future of written literature.

“I love the weight of a book, the smell of the book and psychically closing it when I’m done,” said Jean Jackson, operator of the espresso book machine at Books a Million in South Portland, who spends her evenings using the machine to make copies of any book her customers want. “It’s nostalgic and it’s personally an amazing experience for me.”

Jackson hopes that the future of the book stays in print rather than becoming completely digitized.

Sissy Buck, an advisory board member of the center for book arts, explained that as a child, her parents gave her money to buy books at the book fairs her elementary school would have a few times a year, so there is a lot of nostalgia behind the print book for her.

“What I like to think about the future of the book is that no batteries are required to make it work,” said Buck. “People want to buy local, physical objects. There is an appreciation for handmade crafts, vinyl records, woodworking and psychical prints of literature. I don’t see the future of the physical book print diminishing but rather flourishing.”

With all the nostalgia that people have around the printed book, it can be hard to imagine a world that solely reads literature using a Kindle device. However, all members agreed that universities are going to see an incline in the use of e-books to replace print textbooks in classrooms.

“In the academic world, you’ll see a transition in many ways. University publishers and scholarships will transition, and print will not be as important because the availability of online texts is on the rise,” said Dr. Clem Guthro, director of the Colby College libraries.

Jackson comments by explaining that e-books are just a new outlet for people to look at the types of books they can read. It’s also a greener option  because it for saves paper and shelf space. Christie agrees and said that e-books can sometimes do things as good or better than the print book can.

“Large print books have almost disappeared as a market for us because they are usually so expensive,” said Josh Christie, manager of Sherman Books in Portland. “However, if you have an e-reader you can just adjust the size to whatever you want.”

Buck believes that e-books have grown in popularity largely because they’re relatively new and up until recently, books were things people could hold. With this important aspect still in mind, Guthro adds commentary to explain the nostalgia behind literature.

“As we become more digital, the idea of interacting with a printed edition of the book becomes engaging for all individuals. The physicality of literature is important,” said Guthro.

Jackson elaborated that although most people think that the older generation is attached to the book and the younger prefer using the e-book, this stereotypical stance isn’t always the case.

“I love the physicality of the book, and for that reason I do not own a kindle or reading device. What is interesting to me is that my mother and grandmother both have e-books that they love, yet they’ll go out and buy the physical copy of their favorite books as well,” said Jackson.

John Ring, a resident of Portland, explained that after owning a used bookstore for over 14 years, he’s noticed that there is something magical about reading a book on paper rather than having to read it on a screen.

“One of the biggest comments I hear when people come walking in my store is that the place holds the smell of a bookstore. I’ve worked there so long I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t smell my musty books sitting on the shelves anymore,” said Ring.

Senior english major Christina Blaire said that she would one day like to own a library of her own, and after this discussion, the future of the book doesn’t seem too bleak.

“Conversations for the future of the book can be frustrating because it is such a binary subject to talk about. You either are on one side or the other, this discussion in some ways is a lot like politics,” said Christie. “It’s much more grey in terms of what you agree with. You either love the print version, or hate it – and same goes for the e-books as well.”

The discussion continued to explain more about how although the e-book is a more energy efficient form of reading literature, it will never have the same memorable feel that a printed edition does.

For that reason, it is safe to say that the future of the book is neither one sided or disappearing  but rather flourishing in both the aspect of the print edition and the e-book form as well.

“I think the future of the book is bright, both from my perspective as a writer and as a book seller,” said Christie. “Of course we’re going to see changes as the years go on. However, I think it is a bright future for print books as well as digital books which really