Future of the Paperback

Essay by bartunnrCollege, UndergraduateB+, November 2014

download word file, 5 pages 0.0

Nicholas Bartunek


IMS 201: Research Paper

Future of the Paperback

Are paperback still the preferred manner of reading material? If you have an iPad, Kindle, Digital Reader, Nook - any of these devices that are made with (sometimes solely) the ability to read novels digitally, do you still prefer the feeling of a hardcover novel? With the advancement of technology, everyday life has become a routine enactment with digital media and software. So why do people still aim for the feeling of paper and thread between their fingers? And for that matter, should the world fully innovate into the digital age and forego the old method of publishing? What negative effects might there be with a fully digitalized library? Is the world ready for such a thing to begin with?

According to the New York Times, the world is ready. In the article, Here's What the Future of Reading Looks Like, by Kevin Roose, traditional book publishers have been preparing for the are preparing for the rise of the digital age years before the problem even arose to the public's eye.

Even companies such as Barnes and Nobles, who prioritize on the selling and distribution of hardcover and paperback novels, have made leeway in the digital world with the creation of the Nook. However, Roose's article takes one step further to claim that it will not be only the handheld tablet devices that take over the reading community, but our phones. Estimates on sales for tablet devices created for the singular purpose of reading eBooks is being outsold by devices, such as Apple's iPhone, by a significant margin, with estimates reaching as far as 2017 that state sales of the Nook won't even compare to a quarter of the multi-tasking iPhone. After all, who would prefer lugging around a heavy piece of hardware, which can only do essentially one thing, rather than a small, compact item with multiple capabilities, along with all those of its larger predecessor? In essence, the e-readers, such as the Nook and Kindle, have eaten up the hardcover/paperback novel industry while multi-purpose digital tools, such as the previously mentioned iPhone with the iBook app, has come and done the same to the e-readers. The phone is the new book.

This does not necessarily mean, simply because there have been new developments in reading technology, that the book has been deemed unusable. Quite the contrary; books are still the preferred item for reading enjoyment. According to Mashable and the New York Times, digital-readers and multi-feature tools still hold an Achilles Heel when it comes to reading interest. And it ultimately lies in its most desired features: its multiple capabilities. With an e-reader, you could desire to read several books at once instead of focusing on a singular one. The iPhone is distracting with its multiple apps in social networking, games, and being able to text and talk on the phone. Ultimately, you're distracted with the other capabilities that your digital tool possesses, rather than being able to focus solely on one thing: the book. Now, this is not a true found science, of course. Naturally, if focused, anyone should be able to focus on a novel over other personal, but it is nonetheless a distraction that some would prefer not to be there to begin with.

Interestingly, it is the popular opinion that digital media should stay out of certain aspects of society so as to preserve or continue old methods that work. One method being a prevalent issue in schools: keeping cellphones, laptops and other types of similar tech outside of the classroom. However, despite this, according to the Daily Riff article, 21 Things That Will become Obsolete in Education by 2020, which took opinions from teachers around the country on what things will be rendered null-void by the next decade, 'paperbacks' was the eighth most popular vote - quoting that by the time ten years comes around, "you'll hardly tell the difference as 'paper' itself becomes digitized." And it's true - online novel sites have moved to place the feeling of a novel into the computer screen as easily as if it were in your fingertips. And many of these are created (or at least, uploaded) by teachers and professors to save on the paper needed to purchase the book, textbook or binder. Essentially, this means teachers are supporting in class use of digital media.

However, a 2D representation of a book can only be 'so real'. The Guardian states that over 62% of young adults, ages 16-24, prefer printed books over eBooks. This is interesting as, as the article quotes, "(18-24 years old) as reliant on mobile phones and laptops as we are on oxygen and water." Ironic - being the digital age, and a generation so dedicated to our Facebooks and our Twitters, that the age group so consumed with their smart phones would prefer something without a ringer. The Guardian goes on to describe the interesting theory that the eBook to teenagers, like anything with young adults, is just a phase. It states that, despite the uniqueness of the eBook, growing up with the naturalness of the paperback, and paper in particular, becomes second nature to readers. They desire to return that familiarity.

Along with popular ideals of the preservation of written literature, there is the equally popular belief of what benefits might come from less desire for paperback creation. And, according to EPublishers Weekly, they include several environmentally friendly options. The first being the saving of trees which would otherwise be spent on the consumption of paper; the enormous amounts of fuel and energy needed to transport the trees in the beginning; pollution from producing and shipping books; and finally, eBooks are notably cheaper to purchase than a paperback or hardcover novel. The costs alone is enough to convince most to purchase an eBook, simply to save on time that they would have otherwise spent going to pick up the novel from a nearby book store (which would include gas money) or order it to them for a similar cost but wait time added. In the end, it seems to be a matter of impatience, cost or the desire to have an actual 'reading material' that makes up a significant factor into what spurs the average individual into choosing either an eBook or paperback.

The average individual will choose what they want to read off of, depending on the resources, the cost or the personal preference at the time. I myself have always found both types of book readings to be both interesting, enjoyable and have their own unique flares to them, hence my reasoning for my research. While personal support towards the eBook may be moving forward as the digital generation continues to thrive, that does not necessarily mean that creation or the desire for paperback novels should be obsolete and so long as each group continues to spur future generations into the enjoyment of reading, neither can be truly better over the other.

Work Cited:

Blake-Plock, Shelley. "21 Things That Will Become Obsolete in Education by 2020." The Daily Riff. The Daily Riff, 13 Oct. 2014. Web. 16 Oct. 2014. <http://www.thedailyriff.com/articles/21-things-that-will-become-obsolete-in-education-by-2020-474.php>.

Brady, Matthew. "Why Do Young Readers Prefer Print to Ebooks?" The Guardian. Books Blog, 4 Dec. 2013. Web. 16 Oct. 2014. <http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2013/dec/04/ebooks-amazon>.

Cancio, Colleen. "8% of Librarians Believe Printed Word Will Be 'Obsolete' by 2050." CNS News. CNS News, 20 Nov. 2013. Web. 16 Oct. 2014. <http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/barbara-hollingsworth/8-librarians-believe-printed-word-will-be-obsolete-2050>.

"Ebooks Save Millions of Trees: 10 Ideas For Sustainable Publishing." EPublishers Weekly. EPublishers Weekly, 29 Sept. 2009. Web. 16 Oct. 2014. <http://epublishersweekly.blogspot.com/2009/09/ebooks-save-millions-of-trees-10-ideas.html>.

Figerman, Seth. "E-Books Aren't Going to Make Print Obsolete Anytime Soon." Mashable. Mashable, 16 Jan. 2014. Web. 16 Oct. 2014. <http://mashable.com/2014/01/16/e-books-study-pew/>.

Hutsko, Joe. "Are E-Readers Greener Than Books?" Green Blogs. New York Times, 31 Aug. 2009. Web. 16 Oct. 2014. <http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/31/are-e-readers-greener-than-books/>.

Roose, Kevin. "Here's What the Future of Reading Looks Like." New York Times: News and Politics. New York Times, 27 June 2014. Web. 16 Oct. 2014. <http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/06/heres-what-the-future-of-reading-looks-like.html>.