Books Pop Culture

What the quick rise of e-books means for the future of reading, and why you should be worried

Imagine if one day you woke up to see each filled bookshelves in the world replaced by a single e-book.

Books, writing, storytelling… these forms of expression were the foundation of entertainment for humankind. Over the centuries, history has shown how “entertainment” has now evolved to cover a spectrum of categories. However, books have remained a core aspect of what we consider necessary to grow our minds and hearts. The knowledge gained through the physical experience of reading a book remains unmatched to this day. Our childhoods are reminiscent of holding a book upright in our hands, turning the pages, our finger following each sentence, and our attention captured by the words.

As our lives move faster and the world develops at this hyper rate, our time has become more valuable than ever, and we are inclined to take the shortcut, the convenient or – in simpler words – the quickest way out. I myself am guilty of this habit, having owned Kindle. For a while it was great. My bags were lighter; the tablet was easy to carry. I no longer had to make my way to a bookstore to purchase a book. But as time passed, I realized that the transformative experience I would have when reading a good book was no longer there.

That entire vibe – turning the corner of a page to mark where I had read till, annotating my thoughts in the margins, underlining my favorite parts, the culmination of the experience that is difficult to put in words – had disappeared.

E-books are a false promise in replicating the reading experience. Often, I hear of the many advantages of e-books, such as cheaper prices and no waste of paper. And let’s not forget the increased ability of people to self-publish without having to go through the competitive process of pitching to a big publishing house. This has allowed more individuals of varying literary capabilities to choose writing as their career. Subsequently, this leads to more books being available to read regardless of whether they fit the general publishing criteria or not.

As our electronic libraries grow larger, our neighborhood libraries grow emptier, and the people running them start to lose their jobs. A traditionalist will argue saying that although change is inevitable, and to move forward, development must keep happening. But how can such a fundamental part of our history, representing some of the greatest minds of all time, be wiped away by words on a screen? Walking into a bookstore with the excitement of finding a new book to read, taking it with you and discovering what the first few pages make you think, and finally, that feeling of turning to the last page, savoring those final words and finishing your journey with that book. There is something so humane in this.

Sometimes I like to describe the times we live in as having taken shape of famous people who’ve lived. 2018 was a long Britney Spears… a series of highs and lows. But with an objective look at things, technology seems to make me feel as if the world is slowly edging towards a Star Wars Millennial Falcon, walking talking robots revolution, and that we, the people, are stuck in this transition of embracing the new.

But is there not any way to grow whilst still holding onto our roots? It would be a shame if, in the years to come, people could not see past a screen. Perhaps the point I’m trying to make is not as problematic for you as it is for me. Perhaps you welcome all the change without thinking it necessary to retain what we know. But I hope that at the very least, you take away a crucial thought from my words. That in the grand scheme of things, depleting books from our lives means depleting them from future generations.

And if you are somebody for whom the physical experience of reading a book has had an impact on your life, then you too will know the importance of keeping the old, no matter how much new.

By Sahar Arshad

A writer, journalist and editor, Sahar is on a mission to write words that’ll make you stop and smell the (metaphorical) fires of the world. A life long Gryffindor and avid murder mystery reader/watcher, Sahar is fascinated by science, literature, history and how they interlink with each other.