Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Where are the paper books going? :|

Books go a long way back in history, to the time when paper wasn’t even invented (or at least, reading and writing was). When it came around to paper books, it was a revolution. Knowledge spread, and so did books and reading. Publication houses opened up and bang! A whole new industry, all about books! I haven’t done any fact survey, but I’m pretty sure they did really well. I kind of love this industry, not just because it’s book-related (though that is a reason) but also because the whole process of creating a book seems magical and fascinating to me. (If anybody’s interested, I’d love to work in the publication industry! :P)

I’m a bit worried though, if the rate at which things are now going is any indication. I mean, the first thing I came to know when I returned home from a stupidly-useless day in college was that Penguin and Random House are merging to become one entity. Not that I’m against it, I am happy. I’ve always admired both these publishing houses, what with all those great books they come out with. But I have to admit my first reaction was slight disappointment. So instead of going, ‘Whoa! That’s great!’ as my parents expected (when they gave me the news), I went, ‘What? But why?’

They say it’s because there’s a decline in sales of books, thanks to the boom and increasing preference for e-books. That’s kind of sad, if I were to quote my personal opinion. I mean, removing all emotion aside, how do you dream of a world where there are no books? I can’t. I’d rather die. Seriously. If not, I’d die of boredom anyway! Even if people are not book maniacs like me, they’d still have at least some preference for paperbacks? How can you miss out on the thrill a reallyyy old book you find in the store room or attic gives you? Or the delight of seeing those volumes set on a shelf, gleaming and torn, old and new, paperbacks and hard-covers, tilting your head to read the spines, using your index finger to pull the book out? Just imagining a time where people will only have e-books gives me the shudders.

I cannot do this with an e-book, can I?
No, that’s not going to come true for some centuries at least, I think. (Am I hoping for too much?) But still, what’s with the decline? And it’s not just because of e-readers or reading apps on PCs/Laptops. It’s because of piracy, too. A book can easily be available on the internet, if you’re smart enough to find the right thing. Talking only about people in my city (and country) and I’m not generalizing, because I know all of us don’t do that, but it is a fact that many don’t like spending a lot on buying books. (Not that it increases libraries, or memberships there, in any case). Apart from the obsessed like me (and let me remind you, it’s not much appreciated either, being obsessed, I mean. But whatever), many go for cheap copies available with the redhi walas, for less than half the price, the only problem with them being the poor paper quality, which they don't seem to mind. Or for pirated books off the net.

Which is where I start feeling uneasy. I’d admit I tried finding a book too, when I couldn’t seem to find it at a reasonable rate, but I gave up after a few minutes of searching. It wasn’t right. But people do it, right? Apart from the obvious reason of saving money, I cannot find any other factor. And I don’t want to start about the differences in paperbacks and e-books and which is better and all that. It’s already been talked about a lot. I got a Kindle myself, but that’s not because I do not like paperbacks. I prefer them any day; in fact I haven’t been able to read more than two books on the Kindle anyway, thanks to its need for wifi, which I don’t have at home yet.  Besides, I got that only for the Amazon freebies that I’d been reading on the Kindle app on my laptop before. Those books are like ‘quick, fast and light’ reads for me. Somehow I’ve never been able to think of them as ‘books’.

Anyway, with the new Penguin Random House projected to be the biggest publisher (sounds mighty!), I’m also very happy to know that one out of every four books would be from this publishing unit, according to an article in www.guardian.co.uk. But even then, it’s not exactly comforting to know that two great publishing houses are now one. The numbers are dwindling and it’s kind of scary. I love you paperbacks, and I hope you’d be there forever! :)   

PS- This is probably the first ever post on this blog that isn’t a book review or a meme. I know that’s pretty sad and I think by now, those reviews-only posts ‘might’ just have made it monotonous. I blame my first blog, which pretty much carries my life’s weird stories and that's where I ramble when I’m either frustrated bored or emotionally charged up. Whatever pertained to books, I kept it here and now that I realize, I’ve never actually posted anything off the topic, or anything I’ve written randomly. This isn’t a post to deliberately break that norm either, but I did feel a lot about this issue and wanted to talk about it. 

Any views? What do you feel?

18 comments:

  1. Ebooks can never fully replace real paperbacks, not until real book lovers are still alive. And real book lovers will stay alive until those books keep giving that unique pleasure of holding a real book in their hands, until their smell is as soothing as it is now and which ages into an even better one, until having a real shelf with real books is better than having something which is nothing more than 0's and 1's.
    The merging thing does make me a little uncomfortable too, because there is something distinctive about each publishing house. An image of some sort, and which also shows on the books they publish. I fear that uniqueness and distinctness getting lost.

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    1. Precisely! I wasn't too sure, but if you look at it, Penguin is a lot into fantasy fiction as well and most awesome books and bestsellers come from Penguin. Random House seems more into the other category of Fiction! We'll just have to see how it turns out now.

      You're right about it, till book lovers are alive, they'll continue. :)

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  2. I don't think that e-books will ever truly replace paper books, at least I very sincerely hope not. I will always love paper books, and I too, would be crushed to live in a world without them for many of the reasons you've already touched upon. As book lovers, we just have to keep up the demand for paper books and make the publishers see that they're still wanted even in this era of technology.

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    1. Yes, and I'm sure there are a lot of us to keep it up! I was just a lil worried to know it's decreasing.
      Thanks for your comment! :)

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  3. Nope, I don't think only reviews makes it monotonous. :)

    Rather honestly I look forward to your reviews and I enjoy reading them. I Love the fact that someone else also shares the same passion as me for books. Otherwise people have always found me weird :/

    And with this post you have not broken any norm. It deserves to be here for all the right reasons.

    Coming to this post - this is sad. I love my books and I cannot phantom a world without them. How would I smell those pages and feel them!! It is just not so fair.... !

    I am sure our fears will never come true *fingers crossed*

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    1. Aww thank you so much Me.! You're really sweet. And I hope for that too :)

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  4. I do own a Kindle, HOWEVER, I only use it for those authors that send me there books for review, and if a book is SUPER cheap like under $2.99. I refuse to pay more, because then I could own the paperbook for a couple of bucks more. I've always preferred paperbooks. However, I will admit the Kindle is very convenient when you take the bus and walk around a lot instead of drive, because it fits into my purse a lot nicer than most books. But believe, I haven't forgotten about paper books!! :) I buy them still regularly!!

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    1. That is one reason I do not (yet) purchase e-books! If I have to spend, I'd rather get paperbooks. Though you're right, it IS convenient. I've had the pleasure of reading via Kindle in otherwise totally boring classrooms ;)

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  5. Ashna, I am rather disappointed for the reasoning behind the merger. I think it's sad that the publishing industry is struggling so! I love and prefer the real physical book, myself. You can't leaf through the pages of an ebook and feel the texture of the pages, run your fingers over the cover, smell the real book smells! There is nothing like a real book!

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  6. Oh girl, you just wrote what I feel in my heart. Paperbacks are THE best things on earth! Like you said the 'tilting you head to read the spine and using your index finger to pull the book out..' Those are mesmerizing times ** Sigh**
    Having said that,I have been planning on getting a Kindle since the authors who send me books to review mostly send me the e versions :| and its not a secret that reading off the pc/laptop is a real pain in the rear end!
    I love my book collections and would guard it with my life!! :|

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    1. Haha! Reading on PC IS a real pain! That is the precise reason I got one too. Now I haven't seen it since at least the past 10 days. Paper books! :D
      We all think similar! :D

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  7. I can never read thru PC or thru kindle....i nead a book..i love d smell of a new book...the touch of those crisp pages... nothing can beat the combination of my bed a good book and a cup of coffee..... :D

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    1. Glad to know you feel the same! You're right, it's no easy feat reading on PC/Laptop. Apart from being tiring, it wrecks our eyes too!

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  8. decreasing in sales, for that, The big publishing houses like Random, penguin etc are themselves to blame, the prices of the books published by these publishing houses are really high(like Rs400), for this reason piracy is flourishing and also ebook industry

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    1. I don't think that is the main problem. For all I know, books are even more expensive in foreign countries and those people spend a lot on books. If we don't mind spending such amount of money on a one-time snack/lunch when we're out with friends, or even a plain t-shirt, we shouldn't mind spending on books either. :)

      Though yes, ebooks are cheaper and that's why people prefer them. (But then, the revenues from ebooks that are sold goes to the publishers too!) Even then, a book is a book! :P

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  9. was awesome to locate this one. I will end up being returning to look at some other posts that you have another time.

    sports and physical education books in delhi

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