Kindly Caroline, from the Gloucestershire Echo, recently ask us for a few words on the paper book v the e-reader debate. Here's what they got -
David Whitehead and I have run the Cotswold Bookstore in Moreton-in-Marsh for the past ten years and not surprisingly, do not always agree. (You should here us on the correct way of sharpening a pencil!) Certainly, on the future of the ‘real book’ when under increasing attack by e-readers, we have different views.
His opinion is optimistic. He believes that this new gadget, the Kindle, in most cases, will be taken up with initial enthusiasm but will soon be discarded, and paper books returned to. Perhaps the e-reader will be revived in time for the next summer holiday (and don’t forget your charger!) but a paperback in the hotel foyer may look much more interesting. The Kindle, with its new lower price, may well be a popular Christmas gift but may even result in introducing more people to the joys of reading. He also points out that the e-reader cannot duplicate everything the ‘real book’ has to offer. Colour pictures for instance. The larger books such as art books and those on photography will also continue in paper form as will many books for younger children.
My view is very different for, if the present e-book is seen as a major threat to paper books, think how the future e-book will compare. It will have colour images, an inbuilt dictionary, an interactive index, a sound chip for the partially sighted and a dozen other features that are being designed as I type. Will the paper book still compete?
Of course the e-reader will still not replicate all the features of a book. You cannot loan your favourite read to a friend. You cannot make it a feature in your living room. It will not proclaim your interests to a visitor. However, all these aspects are those of habit and will soon be forgotten.
It is not the loss of the book itself that will change some of our lives, it will be the loss of the small, independent bookshop. In rural areas particularly, it is often a central meeting point, a place to see friends and exchange news. A place to deposit shopping while popping to the chemists. A place to sit awhile if the walk home is arduous. Even, in our case, a place to leave the dog while you go to the butchers!
Many will survive for a while. Those who own their premises and do not have to face escalating rent or those who diversify among them. There may be many ‘bookshops’ who make more money on coffee and cakes than they do on books. We have recently taken on Games Workshop models and games to widen our appeal. The future though, holds fewer bookshops than the present, and with the closure of many libraries too, there will be fewer places for children to sit quietly and look at a picture book, perhaps the biggest loss of all.
Of course, it is mainly the Internet and supermarkets which have all brought this about, but I think that the e-reader will have the final say and it could well be the most popular gift this Christmas. I naturally think I’m right about the pencils but I hope I’m wrong about e-readers.