Do Printed Books Have a Role in Modern Media Consumption?
The simple answer to the above question is yes; printed books still account for a much higher share of any population's attention than ebooks. Data shows that in a country like India, the estimated share of the population that purchased printed books was 24.5% vs. 5.6% for ebooks. Even in western countries, the share of physical books is double and more than that of digital ones. While the numbers are clear that the printed book is here to stay, the fear of losing something that held meaning for many generations remains at the heart of this concern.
Brief Look at the Evolution of Print Media
Digital books are merely an extension of the printed book in every sense, and print media has been evolving in this fashion over many centuries.
Let’s take a closer look at the evolution of print media. Though the seeds were sowed hundreds of years prior, around 105 AD, with the discovery of paper and type by the Chinese, printing gained traction with the creation of the Gutenberg Press by Johannes Gutenburg in the 1400s. Over the centuries, the discovery of more readable typefaces led to the further growth of print. But the Industrial Revolution and the invention of the modern cast-iron press ushered in the daily use of books in efficient sizes with better paper quality.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, graphic design brought in the next big phase of print media, where publishers embraced the ease of mass production in printing. Other modern inventions like the typewriter and the later introduction of computers started the process of digitization of print media. What we see today is the outcome of a long journey that’s still evolving in the direction of continuous improvements.
What is Driving Modern Change in Reading Habits?
Every generation works towards solving the problems of the past, and one of the most defining problems of the physical printed book is the inconvenience of carrying one around. Here are a few other interconnected reasons for the growth in popularity of ebooks:
Environmental aspects like the larger carbon footprint of producing a book and the amount of waste that occurs when books aren’t properly recycled.
Digital books have led to a change in consumption patterns since ebooks are easy to procure with no wait times at libraries, or going through the process of buying at a brick-n-mortar bookstore.
The reader profile has evolved; unlike the earlier generations that grew up with all the physical aspects of books, the millennials and digitally native generation don’t consider books to be a meaningful purchase (anyone remember the days when books had handwritten messages in them?).
Increased choices in the way information is consumed thanks to the many other social aspects of digitization of media.
Conveniences of ebooks like enlarged font sizes for different reader age groups, backlighting to help in areas of low light and the ease of having your library in a device that is lighter than a physical book, will continue to drive change in the way books are read in the upcoming generations.
Future of the Digitization of Books
Printed books aren’t going to fade away anytime soon since there will always be a large population (this writer included) that still enjoys holding a good printed book in their hands as a way of relaxation or a way of learning. The future of print media will continue to build on mimicking the physical reading experience on a digital platform.
These have become an integral part of how books are now read. Ebooks will continue to evolve as we have seen, like in the case of Kindle Unlimited which gives one the feeling of having a library with every title, right at your fingertips.
Most humans take in information better when it's visually presented. Coffee table display books have long filled this need, an experience that is now available in an enhanced format with easily shareable digital visual content.
Slowly gaining in popularity, audio books give hope to an aging population and anyone who wishes to reduce screen time. With book authors willing to lend their voices in more ways than writing, this medium is leading to more people 'reading’ using their other senses.
A nascent industry that has grown exponentially over the last decade, good quality readers take care of addressing all the pain points of a physical printed book. From removing the weight barrier to controlling font size, and easing the process of browsing, buying and borrowing, readers are the heart and soul of the e-book evolution.
Collectibles and Antiques
Many precious printed books and manuscripts that give us a glimpse of past life are both literally and figuratively fading away. And the digitization of these antiques has helped save them in an affordable, accessible manner for future generations.
Chances are that there are many of us that still maintain a bookcase filled with our favorite books, while we have an e-reader in our bedside drawer, and an audiobook app on the smartphone. There is no one way to consume books, rather a healthy, personalized mix of many.