Growing up with a passion for reading, I learned many vital lessons — don’t write in library books, never “dog-ear” pages and the paperback came before the e-book. Granted, the surge of popularity of the electronic book had many questioning what the future of the old-fashioned paperback would be.
According to the Association of American Publishers, of the 1.8 billion books sold by U.S. publishers in 2018, ebooks made up only 13% of the sales. In comparison to paperback sales and hardcover sales, which combined for a total of 59.2% of sales in the U.S, ebooks fall short of their counterpart by 46.2%.
Both are valid and easy ways to get a hold of various texts, ranging from fiction to textbooks. As with any medium, there are pros and cons to each. Ebooks allow for saved paragraphs that can easily and quickly be referred back to, storage that allows for multiple books on one device, reduced cost and material of the text and functionality in a fast-paced, technology-driven environment. Not only do devices such as a Kindle or NOOK support ebooks, but most devices also have internet access which allows for quick Google searches.
In comparison, paperback books allow readers to have a physical copy of the text, one that can be annotated, drawn in or displayed proudly on a shelf. Many readers, such as myself, prefer physical copies for the experience of reading them.
As a reader, we crave to experience — the way the binding cracks the first time being opened, the smell of the inked letters on the pages, the worn corners of a library book that has been checked out fifty times before you. The best part of a physical book — there’s no dead battery in the middle of chapter twelve.
Additionally, paperback books seem to be aged to the modern ebook, but the aesthetic of “old school” is coming back into style; records are being sold by modern artists such as Harry Styles, thrifting at Goodwill is a popular pastime and Polaroid photos are taken at every social event. In a world that is becoming more and more digitized, “old school” trends are making their way back into the scene.
The ability to physically hold items and share with friends has become more desired, it is more satisfying to hand your friend your favorite book or photo than to send over email or text. It feels real, familiar, and more personal. You can see the excitement and appreciation in their eyes, the way their hands hold the item with care.
Maybe ebooks will never take the place of physical books, but I think that that is okay. In today’s modern world, where everything is at a distance, through the phone or online, it is okay to have a few things to share and keep us connected. Physical books like paperbacks have a cherished nature to them, something to be held close to the heart and shared with others.