By now, the majority of the American population has a smart phone, tablet, ereader or a combination of some or all. Amazon has already boasted that they sell more digital books than brand new hardcovers. The prices are cheaper and you can't blame a person for wanting to save a few bucks in this economy. But there is something about owning a physical book, holding it in your hands, feeling the paper in between your fingerers while turning the pages and experiencing the journey of a tale on real paper, not on a paper white screen or illuminated retina display. I prefer to read my books in a nice chair, with a lamp overhead, no superficial lighting or advanced technology needed.
I'll make a confession. I own a Kindle, an Ipad,(which I am writing this piece on) and I have bought ebooks, usually heavily discounted by Amazon through their daily deals and hundreds of free classics. To be clear, Amazon takes the loss on the daily deals, not the author.
However, once or twice a month, I will go to Barnes and Noble and buy books, at a higher price than Amazon, simply because I do not want the experience of going into a bookstore disappear through the overpowering empire of Amazon.
But here is the real importance of physical books. I visit two of my local Half Price Books stores multiple times a week. To me, buying a book that is slightly worn shows that the person who loved it enough to put creases into the spine and pass it along for someone else to discover proves the power of physical books.
The other day, I found a battered copy of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. There was no price on the back of it, which I have experienced before. Instead, the price was at the top of faded spine 95 cents. A Bantam Classic that was printed in 1968. The girl at the counter was confused as she could not find the price. I stated that it was on the top of the spine, but when she saw it, she acted as if it could not be true. I paid 47 cents for one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century. A copy that was forty-five years old.
That book endured countless amounts of read throughs, and found its way into a second hand bookstore for someone else to enjoy. When a special find like that occurs, no other conclusion can be made other than that physical books have endured, that technology cannot replace physically turning the pages.
Physical book sales are down, but people still have them, still sell them to obtain others. Every time I enter a book store, I find something that I haven't seen before. I know I'm not the only one out there who prefers physical books, because looking through a digital catalogue of your books as opposed to seeing bookshelves full of stories, in all different shapes and sizes, will never be as satisfying or as comforting. Times have changed, but I do not believe that we will see the day when physical books are not available. The emotional journey that books give is much heartier, more meaningful, when the pages are glued to a binding.