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Kindle or Paperbacks: The future of books for the reading community

We humans are, as of today, living in the digital age. Gradually, everything we see around us is being digitized. Even as I write this post, I’m typing words into a computer, and not scribbling with a pen on a piece of paper…that’s a burning example of digitization for me. With the advent of technology, one more aspect of our lives we’re seeing the transformation of is the way we read books.

E-books, in formats like PDF, E-Pub, Mob etc, are slowly becoming a trend with the modern world’s bibliophiles. To add, with the layman in countries across the world becoming more technology-savvy- young and old alike- now there are gadgets specially for reading e-books; one of them being the increasingly popular Kindle, by Amazon. In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, it has come to light that in the United States alone, the number of e-book readers aged 16 and above has jumped from 16% in 2010 to 23% in 2012, while print readers fell from 72% to 67%. People are ditching computers to get hold of reading devices to indulge in their favorite hobby- 33% of e-book readers have a reading device.

According to figures compiled by the Bowker Market Research, at the end of June 2012, the number of Kindle users among e-book readers was about 55%. Specifically, Kindle Fire saw its share of e-book readers going up to 18% in the second quarter of 2012. But like every new trend has its critics, this veering of book lovers from the print editions to the digital versions has instigated a certain section of voracious readers to predict the doomsday for the traditional hardcover. Increasingly, this question is being asked- does the emergence of e-books and Kindle mean that the printed version will go out of fashion?

There are several reasons for the shift towards digital books, but the biggest cause of this shift has been the means employed by authors to put their works on a public platform, and the subsequent response by their readers. The world of traditional publishing is very difficult to break into for writers. Therefore, nowadays, authors are getting resourceful and self-publishing their books in electronic form with the help of sites like Amazon, Lulu and Rapidshare. Their readers are, in return, turning to Kindle and other reading devices to finish reading their favorite author’s newest release. Since many people are using e-readers, the author’s fan base steadily grows and chances of being noticed and getting picked up by traditional book publishers increases manifold. Some sites, like Createspace, also provide the option of print-on-demand-only. E-books are, in a lot of cases, priced less than their printed editions, so people prefer to purchase them; they can purchase it online on numerous websites and get a home delivery, rather than go all the way to a bookstore and spend hours browsing through a ton of books, deciding which ones to buy. These websites also have a facility for buyers to post their book reviews online, which in turn is beneficial to the author.

Speaking personally, I contend that no high-end device can replace the joy of having a printed book in your hands, leafing through the pages, excited about the new twist in the tale on the next page or chapter. At the cost of sounding a tad sentimental, I would say this: The cozy charm and nostalgia related with your favorite bookstore can never be replaced by the convenience of online retailers; the innocuous but real sensations like the smell and feel of a freshly printed book( or the old-world esthetics of printed first editions) can never be substituted by an e-reader.

For me, the market for printed books will always be alive, because most of us old-school readers of hard covers are tied to them with an umbilical cord that can never be severed; no matter how trends might change for the rest of the world. Long live printed books!

Percy Kerry is a student, author, writer and blogger. Her first book, The Reaper's Rage, comes out soon.

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