With the rise in e-books and tablets over the past decade, it’s hardly surprising that many people think the printed word is soon to become extinct. We bet you’ve sat on a train, in a coffee shop, in the park and spotted at least a handful of people with their nose in a….tablet.
With years of experience in the publishing and print industries, Seaspace International have long been interested in whether or not the statement ‘print is dead’ does, in fact, ring true. Just one year ago, The Guardian broached the subject in an article titled ‘The e-book is dead’ and claimed that physical books were making a comeback. Having said that, Nielsen reported that hardback sales in 2014 fell by 11.6% and the e-book market is now reportedly worth more than £350m. So is print really dead? Or are good old-fashioned printed books coming back into fashion?
The history of the e-book is broad and is a technology that’s existed in modern culture for perhaps longer than you realise. In 1978, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio series was launched in conjunction with an electronic reference book containing all you needed to know about the Galaxy. Fast forward to 1991 whereby Voyager Company, a pioneering IT giant, developed Expanding Books; books on CD-ROM – very vintage.
Between the early 90’s and the modern day, many companies and technology specialists dabbled with the idea of electronic books but none quite as successfully as Amazon who’s Kindle range is perhaps the most popular and well-known e-book range around. The original Kindle was introduced to market in 2007 and sold out in five hours. The first generation was swiftly followed by the Kindle DX following just two years later. Since then, countless variations of the ever-popular e-book have been brought out. However, at the end of 2015, bookshop giant Waterstones took the decision to stop selling Kindles as book sales surged signifying the resurrection of printed word and the potential demise of e-book culture.
The prospect of the printed word’s untimely death is perhaps most worrying for print houses and book sellers; put simply, the less physical books printed and sold, the less business there is for print specialists. So it should send a ripple of excitement around the print industry to hear that print, in fact, might not be as dead as one first thought.
BBC News recently reported that e-books are increasingly replacing books in the classroom with electronic devices being favoured over the old-fashioned written word but reading and education experts believe this can significantly hinder a child’s reading development. What’s more, many health experts argue that reading from an e-book, especially late at night, can be detrimental to your health both physically and mentally. And what about full-colour children’s books or stunning coffee table books that feature high-quality photography; surely the quality of the images and colours aren’t as well received through a tablet or an e-book? So perhaps it’s not all doom and gloom for the printed book.
Here at Seaspace, we’re a mixed bunch: some of us are ardent book-readers whilst others are recent Kindle converts. The argument for an e-book seems to fall heavily on convenience, particularly if you’re travelling or commuting. On the other hand, it seems the printed book holds a nostalgic place in many bookworms’ hearts. We think the debate of print vs electronic word is an ongoing dispute but one thing’s for certain; the world is split on what’s best which means that good old-fashioned printed books will be around for a while yet.