The first of course is the digital revolution that has swept over the world in the past decade. Now information of all types is expressed in terms of megabytes and pixels, and is replicated and distributed throughout the planet at light speed. The process requires no paper!
The second major happening is the evolving digital printing press. This device facilitates the archiving of digital information on paper. Extremely flexible in its output capabilities, it has revolutionized the publishing paradigm. Now it is possible for authors to print and publish smaller quantities of books at a fraction of the costs of yesterday.
But does the average consumer purchase and read books like they have in the past? Of course not. The trend is to store and consume information electronically on their smartphone, tablet or computer. Even the old standbys so common to the baby boomer generation-- dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks, atlases-- even the Bible have all migrated to electronic forms accessible with a click.
So are traditional books obsolete? Some forms have definitely gone the way of the dinosaur, the dictionaries, etc. are so much more useful in the electronic state. Reference material obtained from web based sources is more up to date. There's more of it to choose from. One can even reference the reference material and go into extended research about any topic whatsoever. You can't do that with a paper based book.
On the other hand, you can curl up on the sofa next to the fire and experience the softness and warmth of a well made paper based book. The feel of a leather cover, the crisp paper and the smell of the ink as you leaf through gives a sense of substance and validity. The information contained within will not suddenly dissolve and disappear. It will remain accessible as long as the book exists.
Dynamic and time sensitive information is best suited to the internet and the smart phone. After all, who wants yesterday's papers? Internet technology has certainly reduced the need to consume trees to distribute time-sensitive information-- news, weather, sports-- information that is discarded almost as quickly as it is printed. But what about non-dynamic information, the stuff that doesn't change from day to day, such as history books, instructional manuals, recipe and cook books, and fiction?
The truth is that now, more than ever, creative individuals have the technology at their fingertips to produce smaller quantities of better quality books-- the kinds of books that are treasured and stored on the shelf. These are the novels, the music books, family albums, recipes, histories, memoirs, philosophies and textbooks that all have their information safely and permanently bound between two covers, readily accessible at anytime even during a power outage!
In all that choppy sea of electronic data and internet confusion, it is becoming more difficult for authors and artists to be recognized, seen and heard. Everyone now has a web presence, because it has become necessary and relatively easy to attain. Many authors have jumped on the bandwagon and converted their work to Kindle and EPUB formats. They peddle electronic versions of their writings instead of the printed kind. Some have sidestepped the paper book altogether and only offer ebook versions of their work.
Still, authors should consider that a well made and attractive book somehow gives them more credibility. It makes a statement that makes the information appear more worthy, more substantial and believable. Best of all, small quantities of higher quality books are affordable and a great for special editions. Personalized hardbound editions signed by the author make great gifts.
So, are traditional paper based books obsolete? I don't think so. I think the time is ripe to bring on a more sophisticated type of physical book. In my next few posts, I will share some of my ideas for producing unique and outstanding printed versions of various books.