Are Physical Books Obsolete?

are physical books obsolete_

Stop! Don’t hate me for asking that questions. Hear me out.

I’m a bit of a minimalist and read almost exclusively in ebook format. This year, while doing some spring cleaning, I donated a heap of physical books to charity. As I packed up some nearly out-of-date reference books, I shook my head at the amount of money sitting in that pile.

Don’t get me wrong—I love physical books. I love to hold them and admire their covers. I adore the feeling of cracking open the binding of a brand-new read, of the smell of old pages, and of seeing the deep creases in the bindings, showing me how many times I read each one. And if I wander into a library or bookstore, I could get lost inside for the entire day!

I began to think of a book I read as a teenager, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Those of you who haven’t read it, it’s about the firemen of the future. Their job is not to put out fires…but to start them, burning books. Will our future have any books to burn?

As I pondered this question, I turned to my newsletter readers and asked for their input. Their responses surprised me! Overwhelmingly, the answer was NO! THEY ARE NOT OUT OF DATE. Their passion for physical books overly evident in their responses. In fact, I felt I may have made some of them uncomfortable for even asking the question.

I had multiple responses telling me about their personal libraries with thousands of physical books. My favorite quote from one reader was that books are his “drug of choice.” Oh, so true!

Some of the other comments that I enjoyed were:

  • They’ll come back like vinyl records.
  • Physical books have become a treat, since we do so much on electronic devices.
  • Come Zombie Apocalypse and we’ll be happy for our library of books.

My readers gave me these reasons (pros and cons) of physical books vs ebooks. Check out what they had to say.

EBooks are our future! Physical Books are here to stay!
Space saving – the ability to carry around thousands of your favorites everywhere you go. It makes trip packing super easy. Need electricity – some readers have a short battery life.
Reading ease – the older we get, the bigger we need our fonts. Also, you can read in the dark. No stress – they won’t break at the beach or pool if they get wet or sand on them. Won’t shatter if dropped and not as many worries about being stolen. There’s also the sun-glare issue.
Convenient – easy to carry everywhere you go, especially if you’re reading on your phone. You never have to remember to bring it along. Pricing – the cost of a reading device.
Pricing – physical books have become so expensive…especially compared to many ebooks. Appealing to your senses – Tactile readers feel they’re getting more with a physical book? You can touch them…smell them.
Storage – physical books may mold if improperly stored. Reference/nonfiction books – Cookbooks and other reference books are easier to use in physical format.

 

Size – especially for epic fantasy readers, some of the books just hurt your hand if you read them too long. (From being heavy.) Some place can’t use electronic books. Jails. Sending books to needy places like some spots in Africa.

Reviewing the above chart, it looks like it was a tie, but even those ebook supporters were clear that physical books had a place.

So…with that said. What do you think? Are physical books disappearing?

Oh, did you want to know my thoughts?

I always look to the next generation. My children don’t have textbooks in school. Is that a sign of what our future holds? I think so. Sure, physical books will always have a place and readers who love them, but I believe our supply of them is shrinking, per capita. But this is just one gal’s opinion. The only way we’ll know is to wait it out.

 

About Joynell Schultz

Writer & lover of all types of speculative fiction. I'm shivering in northern Wisconsin. Learn about my novels here: http://Author.to/JoynellSchultz
This entry was posted in My Writing Journey and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Are Physical Books Obsolete?

  1. Mary says:

    I’m surprised by the number of books I’ve read electronically (including yours.) My cookbooks gather dust while I google recipes for paella and barbecue pork. There is something wonderfully satisfying about holding a book and browsing through it. So much easier than a website. But I do think there will be fewer physical books. Even so, I believe there is an awful lot of reading going on. And that’s the important thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great point! I agree. I think all the different formats makes it so more books get read. My daughter struggles with reading, but loves books, so she listens to audio books. I think she’s “read” almost every young adult fantasy book out there!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think they will become less of a thing as millennials age. My mom won’t read an ebook. I read both. My kids? That’s a whole other story!

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s why I loved one comment I had as physical books will become a collector item — like vinyl records. I’m really interested to see what our kids personal libraries end up looking like. One thing they haven’t switched over yet is graphic novels. The data required, really slows down (and fills) some eReaders.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Funny, I was just having a conversation about this with the copy editor of my university’s school newspaper. She likes to read books, mostly classics, in fancy, metallic, and lether bound binding. I replied that I preferred ebooks because I liked to read brick sized fantasy tomes and the physical versions are too heavy to carry everywhere. Discussion ensued.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The more and more I read on my eReader, the more I realize the clumsiness of physical books. The bulk of a epic fantasy book is a great example. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I’ll bet back to our Camp Cabin soon!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, I actually prefer physical books if I don’t have to carry them around, but the moment I do… ebooks all the way. 😉 I still have quite a book collection though. My bookshelves are so full I’ve had to resort to staking some on my furniture.

        You’re welcome! see you there. 🙂

        Like

  4. jlamborn3 says:

    We are fostering an infant. I’m reading to him daily from my Kindle. My wife said, nope, get the real book; it will mean more if he sees pages being turned.

    She’s got a masters in education, so I’m headed to the bookstore today.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I hope physical books never become obsolete, at least not until ebook formatting is consistently as good as the typesetting you get with physical books. Nearly every ebook I try to read has annoyances that I have to waste time editing the CSS stylesheet to correct.

    Like

    • I never thought of the formatting thing. I wish there was a universal ebook format and we got it right. Another thing this triggers is when you switch devices. I’m on kindle now, but I was on an epub device previously, and my books don’t transfer. Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love books. But I stopped buying them for myself. I buy them for my son. I buy them for my husband. But I would rather check them out from the library, ebook or physical form, and save the space in my life for other things. I realized when we packed to move here, 30 plus boxes of books. How many did I read again and again? How much were they contributing to my daily life once I had read them? They simply took space and effort to maintain.
    I think books will always be around. The number of people publishing is astronomical and growing daily.

    Like

    • I borrow from the library all the time, too! Both physical books and digital. Physical books will continue to be great gifts for others, I don’t see us switching that to digital due to the multiple formats available. And a physical book actually feels like you’re giving a gift. Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. J.R. Handley says:

    I suspect that real life books (not ebooks) will become a treat and not the norm but I doubt they’ll die completely. 📚 ♥️📚♥️

    Like

  8. I adore books but am slowly streamlining to just chosen favourites. Cookbooks will be strictly pruned soon. One important aspect you’ve not mentioned is accessibility, for those with various forms of disability ebooks are a fantastic development. Great post as ever.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Lana says:

    I don’t think physical books will ever completely go away–as shown by the response to your newsletter, bookworms really love physical books! I honestly think I’m more likely to read a book if I have it in physical format. For one thing, it’s right there in plain sight, not hidden in a list of other names on my Kindle. For another, I love turning pages and seeing myself progress through the book visually (the percentage bars on ebooks don’t do it for me). And then I love seeing the beautiful covers/maps/etc. in physical books. (I have a black & white, non-touchscreen Kindle, so it’s hard to see covers/drawings/special formatting.)

    But there are tons of pros to ebooks as well. Firstly, they’re cheaper. If I’m going to buy a book, I’ll probably end up buying the ebook, and I get all of my physical books from the library. (Although, I get most of my ebooks from the library as well!) Secondly, if I’m lying in bed, I don’t have to hold the book up like I do with a physical book. I can just lie on my side because there’s not double-sided pages. Which is kind of weird, but it’s a big plus for me. And then, when travelling, there’s so much information you can fit in such a small space! Which is awesome.

    I love physical books and I love reading them, but I think they are going to diminish. And who knows, maybe we’ll find a completely new way to read a book in the future! 😉 This was a really interesting discussion and I like sharing my thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Physical books give me a sense of comfort in an otherwise always changing world. They are there; always the same, always progressing only when I want them to. They feel nice and I like to hold them. It has such a calming energy. I avidly collect, despite being a minimalist otherwise.

    Like

  11. binabugged says:

    I’m a reader and I have never bought an ebook in my life, nor do I plan to. I love my books…piled up all over the place…recently got an amazon gift code and bought….BOOKS lol

    Liked by 1 person

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