Thank you, Flo, for joining us today as our first guest post on our month's subject: The Future of Books!
The Future of Books: the POV of a print books’ lover
As a reader (and lover) of physical books, I could feel threatened by the digital books: it is not the case. E-books belong to changes in the society; they reflect the way most of the people are living. I could say I don’t care since I’m not concerned, but somehow I’m concerned therefore I care.
What troubles me more is the impact of e-books on human beings. At least each week a studies is published on this topic and, in general, these studies underline bad effects (on concentration, memory, sleep, etc.) which are straight away dismissed by any user afraid of such backlash. The problem is that when all the studies prove that the reading experience is different with a print book and an e-book, I suppose we can rely on them, at least a little. I’ve read few digital ARCs and I’ve noted that my memories at the end of the ‘book’ are vague, superficial whereas I do not have this problem with physical books (there can be exceptions of course - the quality of the content is also a factor - but I cannot name a single exception for digital copies). I assume if more and more people read digital books in the future it will have consequences on them on various level and, especially, in their way of seeing the world.
Techniques impact reading; therefore, I suppose that the future of print books depends on what we expect from reading: A way of killing time? A hobby among others? An experiment having an impact on our lives and beings? Add what you want but, at the end of the day, what we are looking for in books is the key of our choices and it includes the choice between physical and digital.
I can’t split reading and life; I suppose that’s why I feel concerned by these choices and, above all, by their consequences on the society.
In November 2014, at a professional meeting on the future of the book industry at the digital age, I’ve seen great projects of ‘illustrated e-books’ (for adults): it was fascinating and beautiful but I’m not sure people will purchase these works to read them but rather to watch them as tiny movies. The ‘reader’ is distracted by the special effects and may pay a very little attention to the story.
In France, this evolution implies a lot of debate, more on e-books than on the future of print books. These debate follow three main axis: legal issues, the role of the different actors and the financial impact on a whole industry. I’m not going to detail the arguments and, anyway, nothing is still precise and clear.
What is quite specific to France is that, even if people change, books are still considered as special objects, even by non-readers; it’s in our culture. I will not detail our specifics because it would be too long but they play a role in the debate. Books can’t be sold like potatoes, outfits, you name it. Their prices are fixed by the publishers and only a 5% discount can be applied by sellers.
Therefore, if the industry tries to find solutions to adapt its business model, it also has to take into account our traditions and what we don’t want to lose.
I’ll just give an example – Librarians want to stay in contact with the users not only to give advice but also to protect them of data collecting by third party like Over-Drive. I discovered the existence of OD in December during an exchange on A Girl That Likes Books. Following that, I’ve made research and, indeed, OD is not welcomed in France. We’ve got laws on data collecting and private life and an organization is in charge of their respect. Librarians ensure borrowers their activity stays private and I like that. That’s a point that has always annoyed me regarding the use of e-books; e-readers seem to collect a lot of information on your reading habits and, even if by using the Internet, I know that my private life is not so private, I want to keep control on what I can, even when the information collected are trivial.
If I’m sure that print books are not outdated, I’m not so confident about the fact that people are aware of the consequences of their choices and behaviors. I do hope I’m wrong because otherwise, one day, we will be the hostages of people whose interests are not literary.
According to me, the only improvement relating to this matter is a better access to books and literature. The more people are reading, the better the world is. But we must be mindful and this availability should not result in less liberty and privacy.
Thank you, Flo for joining us today! Leave a comment for Flo below!