Is the future of reading digital?

02/01/2019 Discussions, Reading 24

is the future of reading digital?

Recently I found myself browsing around on Spotify for some new music to listen to, and something random occurred to me: I haven’t bought an actual CD in years.

This got me thinking about other things like TV shows and films, and how I haven’t bought a DVD since getting Netflix, and in turn, this had me thinking about books.

Now, I used to be a steadfast member of the ‘physical books only’ crew, and totally rejected the idea of ebooks. I did buy the second version of the Kindle, tried it, and decided it wasn’t for me, and continued reading physical books for years.

Then, a couple of years ago, my friend got a Kindle, and I found myself tempted to give it another try… Especially as the latest iteration (the basic one anyway!) was fairly affordable, and was a nice size to carry around in your bag. So I bought it, and quickly realised how convenient it was, and in short, was a convert! I still buy and read a lot of physical books, but I’d say the split is pretty much 50:50 now.

And it seems to be quite a common story with people: those who weren’t initially sold on the idea of ebooks are coming around and coming to love ebooks. Because what’s not to love? You can have a brand new read within seconds as long as you have a Wi-Fi connection, it’s super easy to take even the longest book with you wherever you go, and you can have thousands of books right there in your pocket!

It seems like the world in general is moving more towards the convenience of digital products, and buying things online, and in some cases, I can see physical copies of some products, and actual physical high street shops that sell them dying out completely in the future.

But can I see that happening with books? Is the future of reading digital?

In short: I don’t personally think so. Of course, I’m not exactly an industry expert, but through the blogging world I know a lot of avid readers, and can I imagine many of them completely forsaking physical books? That’s a resounding no!

Because us bookworms are incredibly passionate about books, and however much I’ve come to appreciate ebooks, I think we can all agree that nothing beats the feeling of an actual book in your hand. Or being able to look at the collection of books on your bookshelves, books you’ve maybe owned for years and were childhood favourites, or newer books that you read and fell hopelessly in love with… Books hold entire worlds inside them, and there’s a certain physicality to them, and their ability to hold our thoughts, memories and feelings at the time of reading them that ebooks just can’t replace.

And this isn’t just my own emotions and feelings towards books talking: studies done back in 2017 show that ebook sales had dropped significantly, and that young people were actually leaning more towards buying physical books than ebooks. The study attributed this to books being a break away from the screens of the digital devices they’re inundated with, but I also wonder if it’s another way in which we’re harking back to simpler times, like the recent surge in people buying records and record players.

Libraries are also another factor in why I can’t imagine the physical book ever dying out. Whilst lots of libraries have now embraced the ebook thing and allow you to borrow digital copies of books, there’s still a huge amount of people who regularly visit actual libraries. In fact, many people rely on libraries for almost all of their reading material. After all, whilst ebooks are sometimes cheaper than physical books, they aren’t free, like lending books from a library is.

In short, I think there’s a place for both physical books and ebooks in the world, and I can’t see one ever completely replacing the other. Physical books have existed for thousands of years, and will probably continue on for as long as people do, and have the resources to print them.

Ebooks are a wonderful thing, giving us access to a bigger wealth of titles than ever before, at the touch of a few buttons, but that doesn’t mean that digital books are the future of reading. No one knows exactly what the future will hold, or what new technology will come along and make the things we use today seem obsolete, but I just can’t imagine paper books not existing!

So what do you think? Do you think the future of reading is digital, or do you agree that physical books will never die?

24 Responses to “Is the future of reading digital?”

  1. Kelsey

    I love my kindle because I travel a lot for work and also it’s great on my commute, it’s light and easy to carry and sometimes I will finish a book and need the sequel right away and I can have it in two seconds. Having said that, I love paperbacks and hardbacks look gorgeous in my shelf, I’ve sometimes bought the physical copy just to keep on my shelf and the digital version to read easily.
    Looking at music too, vinyl is having a huge comeback so I think the collecting thing is super important

    • Laura

      I feel exactly the same, in that I love the convenience of my Kindle, but I like the look of physical books, and I like owning them. I’ve definitely done that too, where I’ve bought a physical copy of an ebook I liked for on my shelf. I think you’re right in that the collecting things has become super important. People just like to physically own stuff these days, when everything seems to be going increasingly digital.

  2. Aj @ Read All The Things!

    I don’t think I could switch to all ebooks. My Kindle is great for traveling, but I prefer reading physical books. I think it’s because I stare at screens all day for work. Reading on a screen isn’t as relaxing as reading a physical book.

    • Laura

      That’s a great point! If you have a job where you’re looking at a screen all day, I can see why you wouldn’t want to come home and stare at another screen. I know what you mean, I do find reading physical books more relaxing too.

  3. Angela

    So far I have resisted getting an e-reader, but I can definitely agree there are advantages and will probably get one someday. Still, I hope physical books never disappear. There’s something comforting about a physical book that you wouldn’t be able to get from an e-reader.

  4. Malka @ Paper Procrastinators

    I love how nuanced this discussion was and I completely agree! I think that there’s a time and place for both ebooks and physical books, and that because each of them has a niche to fill it’s possible for both of them to exist in harmony. I personally find it a lot easier to read physical books, but there are times when the ease of getting a book I want right then at 10 at night without leaving my bed, makes ebooks a useful thing to me as well.

    • Laura

      That’s such a good way of putting it! They do both fulfil their own roles and have their own niche, so they can exist side by side, and I don’t think one will ever entirely take over from the other. Plus, as a reader it is nice to have the best of both worlds! I prefer the reading experience of physical books too, but as you say, Kindle books are so quick and easy to buy at any time 🙂

  5. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    My Kindle is lovely and convenient and I do adore it but I hope the physical book doesn’t due out. With people talking about the death of the high street and more and more well-known stores on the high street falling into administration. But I do hope that the physical book stays strong. I heard that book sales are stronger now than previous years so whilst we all love the convenience of an ereader, the book won’t be dying any time soon.

    • Laura

      Yeah, that’s part of what got me wondering, because I know a lot of high street shops have been in trouble, especially places like HMV that sells CDs and things. But I hadn’t heard anything much about any bookstores being in serious trouble, and I’ve heard similar things that sales of physical books have actually been up in recent years. So hopefully the physical book is here to stay! 🙂

  6. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    I agree with you completely- while ebooks certainly have gained traction and are wonderful in many instances, there’s something special about holding a physical copy. I think people (especially avid readers) enjoy having personal libraries, shelves of favorites, etc. And the library thing also brings up the point of lending books in general- most ebooks, you can’t lend, so if you want to share with a friend… you’re out of luck. I think (and hope!) that physical books aren’t going anywhere anytime soon!

    • Laura

      I totally agree! Avid readers take pride in having their own personal library, and want to own their favourite books, so I can’t ever see a time when there wouldn’t be a place for physical books. I don’t think they’re going anywhere anytime soon thankfully! 🙂

  7. Gayathri

    E readers are a thing of comfort and convenience. But physical books are a thing of pride, joy and emotions. I hope they are not going away any soon.

  8. Marie @ Drizzle & Hurricane Books

    This is such an interesting discussion, Laura, I love it! 🙂 I feel the same way as you on the topic. If I wasn’t convinced by e-readers at first, I now read 50% of books on my e-reader and I enjoy it, I love how practical it is, too. Yet, nothing will beat the feeling of a real book and I don’t think these will disappear anytime soon, we love them too much 🙂

    • Laura

      I love how practical my Kindle is too, but real books definitely have a certain charm that can’t be replaced by technology. I can’t see real books disappearing anytime soon either, thankfully! 🙂

  9. Elley @ Elley the Book Otter

    Well, I own 8 physical copies of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility because I collect different editions. I do not own 8 different digital editions. I think it’s safe to say I’m backing the physical book industry. 🙂 I like physical books because it’s so much easier to browse my collection and figure out what I want to read. It’s a lot harder to scroll through my Kindle and figure out what I want to read – I need to have some other app or program to create shelves to figure out what I’ve read vs. what’s unread, or move things to various “shelves,” and when I’m done with an ebook I can’t pass it along to a friend or sell it for 5 cents to Half Price Books. Ebooks are also a pain in the butt to photograph for bookstagram. Physical books 4eva. <3

    • Laura

      Haha, yeah, you’re definitely backing the physical book industry there! I don’t blame you though: I like having nice editions of books I really love too! 🙂 And you make some great points: it’s so much easier to browse physical books on a shelf, and it is easier to photograph real books for bookstagram. I photograph my Kindle quite a lot for my blog photos, but I feel like it makes a lot of my pictures look a bit samey.

  10. Dani @ Perspective of a Writer

    I think a lot of what keeps physical books alive is the fact you easily forget to read a book that is digital. Its so easy to forget the 99 cent ebook when you’ve just picked up a couple of hardbacks from the bookstore. And you may never go back to it. Ebooks certainly have a place… personally I think libraries should only buy 1-3 hard copies and make the rest digital but yeah readers love their at home libraries too much! <3

    • Laura

      You definitely have a point: I’m always buying 99p ebooks and forgetting about them! (In fact I just did a post about my ridiculous Kindle TBR!). And I agree with you about the library thing! 🙂

  11. Tasya @ The Literary Huntress

    This is super interesting and relieving to know that many bookworms agree that we would never give up physical books 😀 I feel that way too, even though yes, I read more e-book due to convenience, if I enjoy the book so much, I would go out of my way to buy the physical copy. And I’ve seen many people do it, so I guess we love the physical books too much to let it go! 😀

    • Laura

      I feel pretty relieved myself by the response to this post. No one here has said that they would ever give up physical books! 🙂
      And I have done that myself and bought a physical copy of a book I’ve really enjoyed, and I know loads of people who do. So that’s another reason I don’t think physical books will ever die out! Bookworms like to own their favourites! 🙂

  12. Helia @ Rose Quartz Reads

    I feel the same as you. I think physical books are here to stick around. It’s interesting because I’m not sure what it is that makes books feel different from CDs and DVDs. Maybe it’s because they feel more personal, but that might just be my own judgement coming through because I am so fond of the medium. I went to a talk about publishing a little while ago, and it sounds like the industry is still thriving – and that is without the influence of ebook sales. Whatever the case and despite my love of the ease of reading on my kindle, I know that I’ll still be buying physical books for the rest of my life.

    • Laura

      I had been wondering that myself, about why books seem to be different than DVDs and CDs. I feel the same in that a book feels more personal, but that could just be because we’re both book lovers. And that’s encouraging to here that the industry is apparently thriving! I know I’ll be buying physical books for the rest of my life too. Even if my home ends up looking like a library in the end! 🙂

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