Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Books: A Dying Art Form?

With the recent fear that books are dying out, many discussions have cropped up about the impact of technology. I read a recent article about how an increasing number of parents aren’t reading to their toddlers. Instead, children are spending much of their time in front of TV. By the time they go to school they lack: 1. social skills; 2. motor skills – many can’t even hold a pencil; 3. concentration skills.

The problem isn’t reserved to toddlers either. We are all spending much more of our time on distractions such as social media, phone apps, utube, blogs, computer games, tv, movies, podcasts and so forth.

How does this impact the humble book? I remember a time when travelling the train every second person had a book in their hands. Now every second person seems to have a phone in their hands.

We’ve also seen the impact through the closure of many local bookstores. I’ll admit, I’m guilty of buying less traditional books. My kindle is only a few months old but already the paper books feel clunky and cumbersome in my hands. I never thought I’d ever feel that way.

What does it mean for writers? It’s a fantastic time to be a writer. We have so many more options than we did 20 years ago. It’s no longer about ‘the book’, it’s about story. While the book as we know it may die out, story will always survive.

Story began as word of mouth. It became paintings on cave walls and spread exponentially once the written word developed and birthed the first book. Now we are seeing another time of change. With today’s technology story has become more than the spoken and written word. Story can also include images and music and animation.

Do you think books are dying? What do you think the future will reveal regarding reading and books and story?


  1. quite soon we shall have holographic stories instead of books and films like in STAR TREK :)

  2. I'm hoping in the future there will be a happy compromise! I would like to think that print books will always exist side by side with all things e. Where I work, the death of the print journal has always been mooted especially in the last five years or so but never realised due to cost, demand, copyright and lots of other nitty gritties that refuse to go away. Print journals are here to stay, this decade at least! LOL! It's the speed by which articles published in the the journals are retrieved which for me seems to be the issue. People want the article now rather than a day later.

    I think too that children will have stories to read in both formats - which sounds like such fun!

    I do apologise for my ramble! :-) It;s nearly midnight!! Take care

  3. I think book technology will continue to evolve and quickly. Remember just a few years ago, using mapquest was such an improvement in finding your way and now we have satellite directions.
    Stories will be here forever but I believe the delivery of the tale will keep changing.

  4. Of course I'm going to comment on this one! ;-)

    I really don't think that books are dying (despite what people who follow my blog might think). How we read them is most definitely changing, however. I bet at least some of those folks staring at their phones are reading off of the Kindle app or some other such reading application.

    Maybe I'm an optimist, but I really think the shift away from paper is an opportunity to reach more readers. Clearly our society (in the U.S. at least) is more comfortable toting around a smart device than War & Peace, so why not reach out to them as readers? Most of the non-readers I know are people who say, "I read when I was young and had more time. Now it just isn't convenient."

    Fooey on that! Technology is making it convenient again. So let's give them something to read. If the Indie author thing keeps growing then there is truly going to be something for everyone out there.

    I actually read an article a while back (I'll have to dig up the link) that highlighted a recent study showing that TV watching time is shrinking, and more people are reading using their web connected devices (iPad, etc.)

    Paper books won't die completely. We still have CDs and records, after all. I just think most books will be read electronically.

    Really enjoyed the post!


  5. I do not know if books are dying. Something within says, 'no.' I do know, with certainty, on the thing, though.

    Story is eternal and divine. No fear of extinction, there.

  6. As one who enjoys his iPad, I think the shift will be away from physical books. EJ is right - CDs are still sold, which means those books won't go away. But electronic books offer so many possibilities. Books are now apps and offer videos and interactive content. That's wild!
    I would also like to take this time to point out you will never catch me anywhere talking on my cell phone - I don't own one!

  7. I'm hopeful there will always be hard-copy books. I own a Kindle and enjoy reading on it, but I also love having an actual book I can thumb through pages, mark and highlight, and leave open without worry of running down the battery. :)

  8. I suspect that, eventually (and who knows how long it will be), paper books will go by the wayside, just as cuneiform tablets did. I don't see how, given the speed of technological progress, paper books will last. I say that with a pang, having grown up in a house full of books ... and as an avid Kindle user.

  9. Hmmm! I agree with EJ. So much of what I was going to say was in his post. Why tamper with it. - Maeve

  10. Books will never die. They will just evolve from one physical form to another.

    If the book dies entirely, then imagination follows suit. And at that point, we all would be better off just hanging it up.

  11. I still read printed books and I never want that to change. Not an eBook fan at all.

  12. I'm not going to be so crass as to post a link to my blog on your site. But those so motivated can click on my name and see my June 7 post, where I give a different view. Hint: It has to do with Giles saying on Buffy that books have an advantage in that they're smelly.

  13. I'm with old kitty; I hope the book as we know it will continue to survive alongside whatever innovations in reading may come. Plus, do you ever notice how people with kindles never know who they're reading, or even sometimes, what?

  14. I think we've created this compact culture -- space conservation, weight minimization. eBooks are just another example and I think the culture will change even more so that big, clunky books won't be acceptable. Luddites and book collectors, good luck!

  15. I think stories will live on, and we'll always have books in one form or another.

    Great post!

  16. I've had a Kindle for almost a year now. I like it SO MUCH better than a "real" book. I NEVER thought I'd say that. I can keep 3000 books in my back pocket. No more boxes and shelves full of books in my house. I seriously think it's part of our evolution. The biggest problem I see, lies with the large money hungry publishing houses. They have already started overpricing electronic books. There is no way that they are going to allow people to buy paper based books in the future, unless they are willing to pay a major premium to do so. Just like LPs....
    I'm sorry this was so long.

  17. I once interviewed Amanda Hocking's assistant and he said he thought book were following the same sequence as music. People mostly use iTunes or LimeWire now because it's more convenient, but when they really love a band people go out and buy the album. He thinks the same will prove to be true with books.

  18. I personally do not believe books are dead just yet. In fact, when an agent in NYC asked the CEO of Barnes & Noble this very question--what will you do when people switch solely to ebooks?--he said he wasn't worried at all. That avid readers, if they purchase a book for their ereader and love it, they'll want it in hard copy. This is exactly what happened to me personally with Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games series.

    I do, however, believe this is a WONDERFUL time for publication. Self-pubbing and publishing electronically through companies like Wild Rose, Ellora's Cave, and Turquoise Morning Press (just to name a few) has proved successful for many, many writers and counting. Not to mention--and I don't mean to bite the hand that feeds, but...--they're able to pay a bigger residual than the standard NYC publishers. I'm talking (in some cases) 40% as opposed to 25%. Pretty big deal, I'd say.

    Great post, Lynda. :)

  19. Until they can give me a cheap, electronical device that looks, feels and s-m-e-l-l-s like a book, then no thank you, I'll stick with the real thing.

    Oh and a non-glare screen would be helpful too. I can read a book for hours, not so nice with a laptop's screen.

    On the flipside, would the rise of ebooks make secondhand books cheaper or not?

  20. Dezzy, and we'll lose the skill to not only write, but read too ;) But those holo decks were cool...

    Old Kitty, yep, that's the same with books. Ebooks arrive pretty much instantly when we order them online but print books take a lot longer.

    Susan, yep, I agree the evolution will happen fast.

    EJ, absolutely. Reading is still happening, it's just the popularity of the humble paper book that's changing rapidly.

    Suze, and we gotta love the immortality of story.

    Alex, hehe, if I had a choice, I wouldn't own a cell phone either, but hubby insisted ;)

    Kathi, I think there will be hardcopies, but I think the price of them will rise.

  21. Sarah, I think they will be around for a long time but they'll become more and more inaccessible and expensive. I think Print by Demand will come into its own here.

    Maeve, hehe yeah his comment was excellent.

    Bryce, imagination will keep story alive even if the physical book disappears.

    Trisha, yep, many haven't taken the plunging into e-reading yet, but the numbers are increasing daily.

    Mark, lol. Many people use the smell of books as a win over ebooks, but to be truthful I haven't sniffed a book in a long while. I usually only get the whiff when I walk in old libraries ;)

    mshatch, hahahaha! guilty! That's the one major drawback of kindles--it's not so easy to flip through the pages. I'm hoping the tech will improve.

  22. Ashley, the pic on this post is actually of my 'library'. I ran out of room and don't have more space for another bookshelf so the kindle is super handy because of that.

    Aubrie, exactly

    Pat, with the flood of 99c ebooks many of the publishers are forced to lower their ebook pricing... their physical books are a different matter though.

    McKenzie, yes I think so too.

    Alyssia, it all seems to come down to money and convenience. I also think bookstores will change their look. There won't be shelves upon shelves of multiple books of the same title. They may not even exist except as an ordering service -- despite what the CEO of Barnes & Noble says.

    Aldrea, kindles don't have the glare screen. Maybe I could spritz some rose perfume on it for you (yeah, I know, it's not the same) ;)
    Interesting question about the pricing of 2nd hand books. It all depends on demand I guess.

  23. I think the format is certainly changing and once we have a genration of kids who use eReaders at school and don't have an attachment to books the way we do, then the book will start to be more of a novelty (no pun intended). But reading will continue, even if it's off screens. And story will always be with us, and that's the important thing.

    Moody Writing

  24. You're likely right, Lynda. Have you been in Best Buy lately? They still have cd's, yes, but then they also have albums on iTunes cards. Literally--an entire shelf dedicated to these colorful, credit card looking things. And when was the last time you saw a VHS tape? A cassette?

  25. Most nights (and naptime too), my toddler gathers a large stack of books and insists we read ALL of them (usually ten or more). He can't keep his hands off our devices and loves movies, but books are his thing. I prefer paper books but love the idea of having the option of eBooks.

  26. I don’t know. I think books may die out eventually, but I have a feeling that it won’t be anytime too soon. Personally, I love real books. I love the weight and the smell of them, and the sense that it a package full of images and characters that will come alive once I open it. It’s not that I’m against Kindles or anything – but I love entering a room full of books. I love that old paper smell as well. If everything were to become digital, I think we’d be poorer for it.

  27. Great post. I was just telling someone the other day that I prefer the feel of my Kindle over a book! It's something I thought I would never say.

  28. I don't use Kindle - I use Sony eReader - which measn I can still read a 'book' by turning pages with a sweep of my finger.

    I read a genuine paper and ink book last week though. I think they're both here for a while - but e-reading is the way ahead.

  29. I still read printed books (love to hold them in my hands). But, I feel that today books come low on everyone's list:shopping,movies, FB, Twitter, Video games, T.V, then if there is some time left, people read books.

  30. Maybe I'll get an e-reader someday--I can see the advantages--but I'm in no hurry. I probably have enough books in my house now to last me the rest of my life. I do love owning the hard copy books, but if I ever down-scaled my living space I guess I'd have to get rid of a lot of them. I think books will stay for years to come, but technology I'm sure will be more prevalent in generations to come.

    Tossing It Out

  31. I think you nailed it when you talk about the story itself as being immortal, versus the book, i.e. oral traditions which later led to writing traditions still maintained good stories. I always like to stay optimistic:)

  32. The thought of books dying out is certainly a dismal prospect.

  33. Stories will stick around, I think. In what form remains to be seen. Print will be around for some time to come yet.

  34. Mood, yes, you make an excellent point about the next generation.

    Alyssia, yes exactly, movies and music are still around, they just come in a different format.

    Tonja, your toddler sounds adorable.

    Marieke, books are definitely special and I hope you're right, that books won't die out any time soon

    Clarissa, crazy huh!

    MorningAJ, agreed

  35. Rachna, it does seem that way.

    Lee, books do take up a lot of space. And yes, tech in future generations will become more prevalent.

    Mark, optimism is win :)

    Emily, but stories will never die, I think.

    M Pax, let's hope so :)

  36. I SINCERELY hope not. I love owning and reading and holding my books and I hate reading stuff on screen. :O)

  37. Madeleine, yep, the standard screens aren't good for the eyes :)

  38. That's a tough question to answer. Like Madeleine, I hope books aren't dying, and do not eventually go the way of vinyl. Personally, I don't think they will. I know plenty of young children and they all adore and devour books, but the interesting thing is they are all girls. Their brothers are to busy playing with their xboxs. Give them a non-fiction book and they may read it. No chance when it comes to fiction. Is this an indication of a wider picture? I'm no sure.

    As for new technology, as writers we should embrace it and recognise the opportunities it provides that never existed before. If it means more people read our stories, what does it matter if they did it via Kindle or a paperback book?

    Ellie Garratt

  39. Excellent question. I think that while the form of books may change, stories will live on in whatever shape or form is most relevant to society.

  40. I don't know about the future, but I so agree with what you said about the negative impact all this tv, video games, etc. is having on our children. I have a daily struggle with my teenage son about too much time on the XBox. Now instead of getting together and doing something outside, he and his friends each sit in their own house and play video games together with their little headsets where they can talk to each other and be in the same game together. My teenage daughter pretty much refuses to walk the dog if her ipod isn't recharged. I love walking the dog and having quiet time alone to think, but they're used to having noise and stimulation every moment of the day. It's a different world than I grew up in, that's for sure.

  41. Hi Lynda - I have an award for you on my blog! Please stop by.

  42. Books may fade out into another format, but I think stories will remain an integral part of society. People are telling stories all the time--I don't think that's going to disappear any time soon.

  43. Ellie, absolutely. Story is story and as writers that's a good thing. We just have to be adaptable.

    Samantha, exactly

    Susan, Because of your example I think interactive books will become popular.

    Maeve, aw, thank you so much! :)

    Golden, agreed :)


I'd love to hear your opinion. Thanks for leaving a comment.