How long will it take for books to be a thing of the past? How long does it take for a generation to go digital? The music industry saw it happen pretty quickly. The recent showdown which saw bigwig literary agent Andrew Wylie cut out publisher Random House in an epic sale of e-book rights to online distribution giant, Amazon, left many industry execs somberly anticipating the demise of a half a millenium-old publishing industry. On the 20th July, Amazon announced that for the first time in history, e-book sales had exceeded hardcover book sales. The same day, Mr. Wylie’s exclusive deal with Amazon to sell 20 of literature’s classic titles in electronic format was announced. Is it fair to publishers that have for centuries, invested in authors and brought the words of our favourite writers to print? No. But neither was the Spanish Inquisition.
What I’m more concerned about is all this talk about the end of hard-copy books as we know it. The industry attraction of digital distribution is obvious as it was with music– it’s a money saver. Production costs drop dramatically. With Amazon’s Kindle e-reader and iPad sales soaring, the literary world is having to think very fast on its feet. There may be panic in the air but sure enough, publishers will eventually cut a deal and everyone will go home with their fair share. Good for them, but what about the rest of us old-fashioned types? Is the day really nearing where finding books will be like trying to find a shop that sells old vinyl discs? Frankly, I don’t buy it. There are certain things in life which I think technology is not strong enough to replace– like human habit. When I read a book, I have a very bad habit of making it look like it’s been through a war by the time I’ve finished with it. Occasionally, I like to bite into a juicy nectarine with one hand and have my book in the other without worrying about whether the pages are going to blow up in my face. On holiday, I want to be able to throw my book back in the beach bag without having to wrap it up in a water-resistant neopreme protective case. What about on a camping trip? (Stop laughing). What happens when your iPad or your Kindle runs out of battery just as you’re about to turn the page and solve the murder mystery? The worry of theft is a whole other can of worms.
There are several problems with digital reading that I feel will greatly stagger the take-over of e-books from real books. It may have only taken music a few years to jump ship from CD to mp3 but that is an industry that has existed for just a fraction of the time that people have been reading books for. In any case, people still refuse to let go of their CD/ vinyl collections, insistent that vinyl in particular, has a nostalgic quality that cannot be replaced. The same will apply to books but on a much larger scale. As with taste in music, books reflect on a person’s personality. Decorating the home with those personality traits is a tradition ingrained in human nature that will never die. Finding rare copies of Catcher in the Rye, or like my friend’s obsession with collecting editions of Le Petit Prince– does not equate to a list of titles in an iPad menu.
I’d like to finish my little rant with a short photostory that I’ve scrambled together over the past few days on things that have sparked a sense of nostalgia…
Above: In the Jardins des Palais Royales in Paris, an arcade of shops and eateries has a sentimental stronghold on its past. Original shop front signs are kept in tact, even if they advertise a completely opposite trade (top left) and the more untouched an establishment is, such as Paris’ oldest restaurant, the Vefour (top right), the more exclusive it becomes to dine there. A modern interior design boutique had taken over an old shop, but kept one square of the original tiled flooring at the entrance (bottom right).
We haven’t given up on classic modes of transport yet…!
I found this little scrap of paper with a girl’s phone number written on it in an old local’s bar in Notting Hill…
The good old-fashioned way of exchanging digits!
Images by Messy Nessy