Are Books Really Obsolete?

And will they survive all the electronic devices, the movies, the audio formats?  I did a little thinking about this the other day; the chart below holds some of my musings:

Pros and Cons
Ways to Read Advantages Disadvantages
Traditional Books Lovely titles on shelf, collectors love them, feel and smell, easy to lend, borrow. Heavy, take up space, have to go to library or book store to get.
Audiobooks Hands,eyes free.  They are great in the car. Hinges on voice of reader.
iPads, etc. Light, many books on one device, great for travel, small size. No pages smell, eye strain possible, lacks tactile feel of good paper, can’t lend or borrow easily.
Movies, Videos Can see a whole story in 2 hours No room for imagination as the pictures are there in front of your eyes.

And then I thought of the years of joy I’ve had with my books.  In my previous home I had a lovely library which I filled with fifteen hundred books, each  a treasure.  They lined up like soldiers on the shelf, a testament to my love of words and to the power of words.    And even today with my reduced number, taking them off the shelf and rearranging them by author is a particular pleasure.  I love to hug them like special friends.

So, no.  Books will never be obsolete.  There is just too much tactile pleasure involved in their reading, sharing, and enjoying.

What are your thoughts?   Especially comment if you have a point I haven’t mentioned as this is a huge topic, of interest to the world these days. 


23 thoughts on “Are Books Really Obsolete?

  1. Oh, I totally agree with you. Books are a prominent feature in every room of my tidy farmhouse. I need to see those titles lined up on a shelf; I enjoy the heft of a book in my hands. They are a tangible connection with the person who wrote the words and all the others who have read the book. Books connect me with the rest of the world–past, present and future–like nothing else.


  2. I’m a book collector myself, and my husband and I have had this conversation a few times. I think it is likely that we will see less and less mass markets become available in stores as more people get e-readers. What will remain are hardcovers, potentially trade paperbacks and certainly special editions – for those people who are the collectors and the book lovers. The 10 dollar mass markets however, will be much cheaper for the publisher to simply make available for download…and will leave more room on the shelves for the ‘nicer’ editions.


  3. No, books will never become obsolete in my opinion.

    As for comparing books and the movies based upon those same books, there is no comparison. Too much of the book has to be left out in order to make a movie in the usual two hour format. Some of my favourite movies, the old classics, continue past four hours and yet still have to leave out so much of their basis – the book!


  4. Some thoughts I had when reading your pros and cons. For one thing, you can have books delivered to your house, so you don’t actually have to set foot in a book store. Also, one disadvantage of audio books that you did not list was that they put me to sleep and thus I find it very difficult to follow the story. My e-reader doesn’t give me eye strain because it isn’t backlit like the infamous ipad. And I disagree that movies leave no room for imagination. After the movie is turned off I’ve pictured myself in the story, become friends with my favourite characters, even imagined sequels. The idea of books vs movies has always been silly to me. I love them both. I love the stories. Books vs ebooks is even more ridiculous. It’s the same story. Not adapted like a movie, or condensed like some audio books, but exactly exactly the same.


  5. I’m with you, Elaine. I’ll never stop reading print books, just like I’ll never stop thinking in feet not decimeters. But I do like the convenience of my Kobo and I do think of temperature in Celcius. A little blending of old and new ways seems to work just fine.


  6. Hi Elaine, I struggle with the dilemma of too many books and too little room to display them properly. I did a major cleanout in the past year, sharing my collections with friends. I vow to keep all personalized books (I treasure those dearly) and other books that were gifts. I have an ereader but mostly it is for convenience. I was gifted with an ereader for Christmas and I posted The Write Way to Read (Dec 26) on my blog The Write Break . Nothing will replace the smell of a new book or the creamy texture of the paper but with most of us downsizing, we must choose carefully which books to keep on our shelves (sniff sniff). And, Elaine, I am a book hugger, too.


    • Ah, the double-edged sword of downsizing. So nice to have fewer things to care for, but so lonely when you go looking for something only to find you got rid of it. That has happened to me with some of my books, but mostly I’m happy to have my favorites and my notes that I wrote upon finishing the reading of most of the others. I started that when I was teaching English and senior students would ask me about books to choose for their independent study projects. Very handy to have my impressions alphabetically collected to share with them. Thanks for your excellent comments, Phyllis. And I’ll be checking out your post asap.


  7. I see people with an ipad and consider if I want one. There is the convenience as you note, but there is something about holding a book in your hands. I don’t think it is something easily explained. I also think it is personal but for those who are truly passionate about litereature, the written book has a particular appeal


    • Of course I wouldn’t have an iPad if I were only going to read on it. I love it for conferences, note-taking, social media updating in front of the tv and, yes, even playing Scrabble when my brain is dead. Interesting to me how many people have a visceral attachment to real paper, bound books. Thanks so much for visiting and commenting!


  8. I compare the electronic book surge to when movie videos and big screen TVs first appeared. Everyone thought movie theaters would become obsolete. They didn’t. I truly believe books and Kindles can co-exist.


  9. Books will never be totally obsolete. For me academic books are hard to study from on an e-reader. You can’t flip back to info as easily. You can highlight (so say my friends who do) but its not the same. Seeing how many pages you have to go to finish that favorite book has its own emotional connection. The e-reader gives you percentage remaining. That said I love my Kindle. I love that the room lighting doesn’t matter. I love not having stacks of books everywhere. I can downsize my life without downsizing my love. The books come to me instantly. (I still love browsing bookstores and libraries). The biggest blessing for me has been seeing my mother’s love of books restored. She has macular degeneration in one eye making reading hard. The room lighting is crucial and the size of font for her to see well.Giving up leisure reading broke her heart .Her Kindle is set on a larger than large-print book font. She has read over 80 books since July. Most we found for free on under $5.00. My sisters and I also gift her with e-books. She is the happiest I have ever seen here.


  10. Thanks, Cindy, for a reasoned response with excellent points. My mother had the same problem but could only solve it with a special light and limited reading. How I wish she had had an iPad!
    This post has elicited some wonderful, thoughtful points on the subject, both here and on my LinkedIn writers’ group (Definitive Serious Writers). From all the commotion, I am sure that reading is here to stay, in both forms!


  11. Since I live in New Zealand, books are very expensive, and recent releases can take some time to get here. Some are only available via special order, which means I don’t buy many print books. The e-format is cheaper and more readily available. I do like to browse the shelves of my local library though. 🙂


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