For hundreds of years, readers have become accustomed to the physicality of books. Some of us take the time to smell the pages of a book we’ve been waiting to read or, for the authors, to make it to print. We turn pages with anticipation when it’s a book that we love and with dread when we really wish that we didn’t have to plow through it. Most of us have also been taught to give reverence to books, to keep them, where possible, in pristine condition without any dogeared pages or pen markings, which might compromise the reading experience of the next reader.
We fill our bookshelves with those novels and nonfiction books that we think will impress visitors and hide those that we wouldn’t want to admit we love in a drawer, closet or other favorite hiding place. Finally, we wait with anticipation to purchase books at a store, wait patiently for online orders or ARCs to arrive and wait in-line at a book signing, imagining what clever bit of wisdom we can offer our favorite authors. (Sometimes the latter works out, and sometimes as when I met David Sedaris during his book tour for When You Are Engulfed in Flames we appear to be either bumbling idiots or French native speakers. Really, I was just shy!)
What will happen to our YA book-related rituals when eReaders, like the Kindle, Nook, Sony eReader, iPad or Kobo become universal? Will tomorrows readers reject the physical book outright? Will they think we’re crazy when we tell them that when we were growing up, we had to actually turn the physical pages, not just swipe our fingers across a touch-sensitive screen? Will they laugh when we say that interactive books used to be nothing more than a-choose-your-own-adventure type story or a picture book accompanied by an audio component?
Perhaps some of these “predictions” will come true, but if we listen to Michelle Nichols and her article Publishers tune into lessons on digital content, then most of our worries would subside. She claims that although mp3 lovers were rejecting cds, there is nothing physically wrong with the traditional book form. Rather, physical copies of ya novels will be value added in a world where e-books reign supreme. Similarly, in an interview with Michael Sinanian of VentureBeat.com, novelist Justine Musk says that real books will never completely fade with the popularization of e-books: “if anything, [books] will become more valued and valuable. Publishers will produced limited, high-quality editions that are meant as collectibles.”
Most of us imagine that the e-book market will revolutionize the book publishing industry. We usually side with the idea purported by Justine Musk that writers will personalize e-books in some way or will write / share their novels online with their fans. We’re currently experiencing the increased familiarity with many of our favorite YA writers that comes with their increased online presence. However, not all those asked believe that e-book is on the brink of revolutionizing the market. For example, in Joanna Pachner’s article Where will the e-reader revolution take publishing? she cites James Belcher of NextGen Research, who believes that only when e-books and eReaders are “superior to […] the printed page” will consumers flock to them in droves. What would that look like? Pachner suggests that the future may see us rolling up our eReaders and stuffing them into our pockets, much like one might with a single piece of paper now.
Now it’s your turn: do you think that physical books will still hold a place in an e-book loving world? Will you miss the physical face time with your favorite author at a local bookstore? Will you be nostalgic for a time when browsing through the shelves and being surprised by a new author? Or have you already abandoned the physical book for the digital variety? Will you wait with baited breath for a time when eReaders become as malleable as a single sheet of paper? I’d love to hear your thoughts!