Humans are quite the inventors. What doesn’t exist, they can imagine into existence. When they need to achieve something, they try and try and try until they get it done. Then they work on getting it done faster and easier than before. Writing is one of our greatest inventions. Up there, in the hall of fame, alongside fire and the wheel and agriculture.
Writing has enabled us to record our history, to pass down knowledge and information. But like any other invention, writing has also suffered a number of changed during the five or so millennia since its invention. In Ancient Egypt they used stone or parchment, in Mesopotamia, clay tablets. These were replaced by the codex, which was similar to today’s books. They had to be handwritten and were luxury items. Then Gutenberg invented the press, making books more affordable.
Now it’s all changing again. For quite some time, I know, but there’s a new format that’s slowly making the physical book obsolete. The e-book.
Some five years ago I wrote this post about e-books versus paperbacks. A lot has changed since then. I often find myself downloading the e-book version and start reading it on my phone or computer. It is easy, it is faster. I do not have to worry about storage space ( when you own a couple thousand books, you kind of become paranoid you’ll eventually get kicked out of the house by paperbacks).
Now, this poses an interesting dilemma. New versus old? Nostalgia versus utilitarianism? Which do you choose? What would happen in a doomsday scenario where there’s no more electricity? What happens then to all this knowledge we’ve accumulated for thousands and thousands of years.
As a side note: people are less willing to memorize something for the simple reason of it being available on the web. It’s there. It takes a few moments to find it.
However, a book is forever. Or close to it. As long as you store it properly, it can last for a very long time.
We are now at this crossing. Paperback sales are becoming a rarity. A sort of luxury item. I work on making paperback editions of my books for the sole reason of having them on my bookshelf. No more than a vanity. Sales account to less than 20% of the overall, and I’m thinking I am lucky.
But is it bad? This e-book revolution? Having so much information readily available on the web? Being able to instantly download any book and start reading right away? That a single server can host more books than a bunch of libraries combined?
I am curios to know your thoughts on this matter.