As I lay in the comfort of my bed finishing the final chapters of Andy Miller’s ‘The year of reading dangerously’, an absolutely brilliant, witty and insightful journey through his ‘List of Betterment’ - 50 books he always meant to read or ‘claimed’ to have read. I came across one of the final quotes from the CEO of a well known publisher which, as a book lover, quite shocked me and inspired this little piece.
“In the future, no one will read Pride and Prejudice from cover to cover, they will just tap the screen, of the phone or tablet and find out more about the bits that interest them, the costumes or the recipes.”
It’s true the rise of computer technology, smartphones and of course the E-reader has had both a profound effect on the publishing world and on the way in which readers now consume words. Libraries are closing along with many Independent book stores and even the big chains. Soon the only place on the high street to purchase some old-school print may be charity shops unless you count the 20 mass market titles in the supermarket. Just as the music industry’s landscape evolved to meet consumers’ changing needs so too has the publishing world. UK Statistics from Nielsen, which monitors book sales, showed that one in four consumer titles bought in 2013 was an E-book, up from one in five the previous year.
Yes times have changed and I accept that, but what clearly hasn’t changed though is peoples’ love of reading; the passion amongst many for ink on paper is still there - book clubs thrive, literary festivals draw huge crowds. Why is this, what’s the difference between the analogue and the digital experience? Is it just nostalgia that book lover’s cherish?
Here are some online thoughts from a variety of sources:
“It gives me the space to think, reflect, pause, return, re-read, and so on until what’s on the page has morphed from an idea to something deeper.”
“We don’t want to lose the pleasure of flipping through a glossy magazine, unfolding a beautiful brochure, or holding a well-crafted hardback book. I agree that ink on paper slows us down, and that is probably a good thing in this digital age.”
“There’s something about curling up with a good book in one’s hands that can’t be beat.”
“I like the feel of the pages.“
“Online, and even on a tablet, is a different experience. There’s a light in my face. There’s an urgency. It has no closure; there’s always another click, an eternal stream of data rushing, flowing, pounding, demanding, agitating”
“When all voices are equal, I have to listen to all voices. When all data is available, I have to process all data. I’m not big enough”
“I spend enough time on computers at work, need a break”
Why does print still matter?
These are my thoughts as both a lover of books and as a graphic designer working within the printed world and the pixelated one.
- Print media is tangible
We are tactile beings. It can trigger a number of senses and evoke memories; the feeling of a well selected paper, the smell of the ink, the rustle of the pages as we move through it. Online, clever though it is, can’t offer that.
- Making a deeper connection
No animations, clickable elements or fancy digital tricks available to distract your attention. Just you the typography and page design. The novelist and critic Will Self recently argued that “the connectivity of the digital world was fatal for the serious novel, which requires all the reader’s attention.”
- Sharing the love
When you shut down the computer the printed piece is still there, allowing you to pick up and browse as you choose, lend (with caution) to your trusted friends and give as a thoughtful gift.
Best of both worlds
A recent poll by Survey Monkey, posed the question ‘What do you prefer to read - E-books or print?’ These were the results:
E books only - 10%
Print books only - 39%
Both - 51%
This poll is heartwarming, it indicates that print isn’t competing with digital, it is in fact complementing it. Also, one of the key finding from Neilsen’s Understanding the Digital Consumer Survey Nov 2014 concluded that ‘whilst most of those buying E-books also buy print books sometimes, a significant proportion buy both editions of the same book.” It seems there are occasions where the E-book experience is ideal, perhaps on holiday or commuting but there is still a place for that old-school paper, ink and glue combination, it’s just different tools to suit different jobs.
"The rejection of the technology is only sound when it's done through understanding. Rejection through ignorance or belief in natural superiority of the old ways seems to me to be as bad as drably accepting all modernism”