Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Real Books - Will they be around for the next generations?

The Seattle Tech Report's Andrea James' blog: All reading will be digital one day, C reports that Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon books will be on Nightline tonight. Amazon has come out with a new electronic reading device, Kindle. I don't think I've seen an actual Kindle live, but I suspect that more and more books will come out in electronic format. And I suspect that sometime in the future that perhaps books as we know them will be the exception rather than the rule.

My daughter has already read her first book on her I-phone. Henry's books are already available on every electronic device you can think of.

But I find myself mourning the loss of something that has been part of my life forever. My earliest memories are of children's books with colorful illustrations. I have memories of sitting with a child in my lap reading my favorite and their favorite picture books to them. While I know that both Kindle and the I-phone are portable, I suspect we won't take them with us into the bathtub for a long soak reading. Real books have gotten expensive in printing, marketing, warehousing, and selling in brick and mortar stores. However, I still like to go to a local bookstore and browse - you can't quite do that the same way online.

But the state of book selling is pretty dire right now when you realize that the leading seller of books is Walmart. Titles will not stay on the shelf long at a Walmart like they do in a full time book store. You may not be able to see all of an author's previous work ready to buy at a store whose major purpose in life is not selling books. Many of my most favorite authors are popular with others as well and I can generally find most if not all of their work on the shelves at my local Barnes & Noble. Right now I only go to Amazon for books whose titles or authors I'm already familiar with.

Another issue with real books that is unresolved has to do with new laws regarding lead and children's products. I don't think lead is part of the process of producing children's books. However, because of problems with children's toys that were painted with lead paint, all children's products must be tested and certified lead free. What does that do to generations of children's books in libraries?

Yes, real books are under attack right now, but I'm hoping that somehow they survive. Real books have sensory appeal - beautiful covers, sometimes beautiful photos or art inside, touch, smell, etc. Somehow, I don't think electronic books are going to be as satisfying to all our senses as a real book. If enough others feel the same way, then perhaps real books will survive this latest economic downturn.

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