With the starry explosion of books in electronic form on the market, many theories have been made as to what position books in their natural form will now be ranked. While there are some who argue that printed books will cease to exist in a mere matter of time, others more optimistically believe that with the availability and convenience of electronic books, printed books will elevate into broader and more noble spheres of art and prestige.
As anyone who has had the privilege of opening a rare book can testify, the theory pertaining to the book as a work of art is certainly not far-fetched. From each book’s fine, unique binding, to the quality of craftsmanship and raw materials which it is bound on, to the specific design on its cover to the printed words and their accompanying illustrations, a euphoric and aesthetically pleasing world of beauty and light beckons those who hold a book in their hands, drawing them to a serene and enlightening plateau of knowledge and all that is lovely. While technological advances are also indisputably worthy of being considered a work of art, it is the very source which products such as the Kindle and the Nook have sprang from that are to be revered as the purest form of art. It is, after all, the ingenious invention of Gutenberg and the painstaking monasterial process of calligraphy that modern printed books have to thank for their very existence.
Aside from the book’s extraordinary artistic aspects, the argument that books in electronic form will propel books in printed form to a level of scarcity and appreciation is also an important one to consider. Though some bibliophiles look towards the future of electronic reading as a horrific and formidable doom, they need not worry for much longer, as the regularity and accessibility of electronic books will only deem printed books as objects which are to be cherished and esteemed. It is a well known fact and an experience in life that has been repeatedly realized, that scarcity breeds respect and appreciation. This notion is especially true for rare books. While at the snap of one’s fingers a digital version of a classic book can be obtained, it is the original, first edition in one’s hands that is to be praised. Though rapid availability is all well and good, it is that which is tangible–the look, feel and smell of a book that will continue to be valued, particularly in the rare book market. However, though valuable rare books are vital to a thriving rare book market, it is what personally grasps the heart and inspires the senses in a printed book that is much harder to experience through a book that is portrayed digitally. As Martha Beck said, “If you’d rather live surrounded by pristine objects than by the traces of happy memories, stay focused on tangible things. Otherwise, stop fixating on stuff you can trust and start caring about stuff that touches you.”
As society has continued throughout history to take great strides towards tolerance, equality and an environment that coexists among varying beliefs and methods of conduct, the world of books must also learn to accept and respect the fact that digital books are a complementary object of reality which must be acknowledged and appreciated for their unique and attainable attributes. In the very spirit of a world which coexists, it is valuable to mention that the fusion of both printed and electronic books serve as a wonderful amalgamation of tools to teach the following generations both practical concepts of technology, and proper respect for what is aged and distinct.
It is well known that to survive and thrive in today’s workplace, a solid understanding and compatibility of digital materials is required, but it is also extremely important to share the joys of reading and exploring the world through books. Consider, for example, our young children who are growing up with the dual exposure of print and technology. This combination serves to produce adults who are wise in the ways of both digital and print literature. These thoroughly equipped adults will be better prepared to become the book enthusiasts and bibliophiles of tomorrow, while at the same time taking full advantage of the technological spheres of a bright tomorrow.
It is, therefore, safe to say that while digital books will allow for the ushering in of newfound respect for the printed book, when utilized hand in hand, print and digital literature will prove to be a powerful partnership which will cultivate and strengthen the world of books and those who love them.