Thursday, 27 January 2011

Ding Dong! The Book is Dead ... or is it?

The book, as we know it, is dead. As a dodo. Kaput. At least that’s what the countless doom-mongering naysayers who populate newspaper columns and the internet would have us believe. Citing the inexorable rise in popularity of e-readers like the Kindle and the iPad, pundits have been predicting the demise of the humble paperback with increasing fervour.

Why the clamber to relegate the book to the annals of history? The current fashion of bestowing on the book the status of relic seems to me somewhat short-sighted. In their haste to declare the book dead, an artefact of the innocent, halcyon days of the pre-digital era, the anti-book brigade has overlooked one key fact – the printed word has a proven track record when it comes to longevity. It has, in fact, been around since the invention of the first printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440. Dear reader, can you envisage the Kindle still going strong in 570 years? I think not.

That is not to say that e-readers are not mounting a serious challenge to books in their traditional form. There is, however, no reason why the printed word and its digitised cousin cannot co-exist happily in this brave new electronic world. There will always be those who prefer one form over the other, and that is the very reason why books and e-readers will never become mutually exclusive. We do not live in a homogeneous society, so why should we settle for homogeneous choices?

This particular debate will, no doubt, continue to rumble on for years to come. Perhaps next time we are tempted to write off the book (excuse the pun!), we would do well to remember the words of the equally immutable Mark Twain:
“the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

No comments:

Post a Comment