Remember vinyl records? There was a time when it seemed nothing could displace them. Reel-to-reel tapes couldn’t. 8-tracks couldn’t. Cassettes came close with the emergence of the Sony Walkman but still those 33s and 45s lined record shops and home entertainment units.
Until the dawn of the CD. Bye bye vinyl. Long live CDs! Until digital downloads arrived. And that idea was so revolutionary that it took videocassettes with them and still remains a threat to the DVD industry.
It was only a matter of time that digital books would follow. With eBook sales expected to rise dramatically over the next few years, those beloved hard and softcovers could start disappearing as fast as vinyl did.
Or will they? I find that there’s something intimate about holding a book that never applied to vinyl. After all, you can’t hold music. Sure, you can hold the cardboard sleeve but the sleeve isn’t really the medium. You can hold a book and it is the medium. Yet despite this, eBook sales continue to rise.
Yes, with an eReader you can carry a dozen books in your suitcase without weighing yourself down. Yes, you can download many classic books for free. But isn’t there something cold and impersonal about staring at yet another screen? Don’t we do enough of that already with monitors, televisions, and wireless devices?
Sure, you might argue that eBooks save loads of a paper and, by extension, trees. But I would also submit that acres of trees get wiped out by the plants producing the plastic eReaders.
The argument can go on and on but I’m not hopeful for the survival of the traditional book. The bottom line is the bottom line and, quite simply, eBooks are cheaper for the publishers to produce. Music lovers didn’t ask for 45s to be discontinued. The industry took them away.
Hug those books tightly. Soon we’ll be told what we can and cannot buy. Again.
Richard S. Todd is a Canadian author and blogger. Visit him online at www.richard-todd.com.