Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Is This The End Of The Book As We Know It?

There is word that by the year 2020, 90% of every thing you read will be delivered in electronic form. And it seems we’re already on our way there. The net is awash with virtual downloadable books which we can read from our computers and laptops. Readers like the Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader and Cybook among others are already making amazing sales especially in Western countries. There’s the advent of E-libraries and traditional libraries too are going online to keep in business.

Reading books is already on the decline worldwide as the current young generation shuns the age old practice for more modern gadgetry like mobile phones and computers. Like anything else advanced, E-reading comes with advantages. For one you get to contribute in saving the earth by going paperless. You can carry 100 books with no weight problems. You can alter the size of text to suit your needs and checking up words in the dictionary is instant.

But personally I’ll not be getting a reader any time soon. I’d still prefer to curl up with a traditional book on the sofa, in bed or at the beach. After staring at the computer for hours on end and then some, I don’t want to be handling another cold shiny plastic gadget. A book is like an old friend. Warm and organic with some emotional connection to boot.

So are we witnessing the demise of the book? I think not. At least not yet.


Rombo said...

I totally here you when you say a book is like an old friend. Sigh.

But I have to say that I've warmed up to the idea of reading books in electronic format.

Basically, I'm straddling. Holding onto my old friend, the book as we know it, while looking over the fence at my possibly, maybe could be friend, the Kindle.

31337 said...

I love my book! it has to be made out of a tree! it has a certain smell too..

BP 1 said...

Shiko We love books, that’s a fact, but we have to face the reality too. According to internet visionaries, the book, I mean, that hand-held paper and print creation we've all love is going to become extinct.

It might not be very soon but, am sure, sometimes in the near future we shall add the book to the list of the “endangered species”. Just wait for the Chinese to start manufacturing their version of the e-book reader and let them bring its price down drastically. I tell you the nearest place you might find your favorite book, then, will be the Museum in a glass display case with instructions “Don’t touch please, rare species”

Shiko before it is too late jifundisha how to curl up with an e-reader.

You might laugh but I tell you soon we shall stop even reading the e-books too, guess what? The Audio books are here with us. Buy your favorite book in audio format and listen.

Mama Shujaa said...

Love my books, always will. Have to see them neatly lining the shelves of my library. They are easier on the eyes too!!

Cee said...

I also definitely love my books, it may be true that paper-books are facing out but the E-books can be such a pain. Looking at screens, from TVs, computers then also books, guess with the advance in technology we will also have to increase the number of people wearing glasses.

Our Kid said...

One of my favorite rituals is to throw a book by flinging (nay.. hurling) it across the room when I get to the BOGUS limit. I would hate to settle tor 'Press Delete'.

But now even the Daily Nation is online as it appears in print. I guess butchers who use newspaper wraps are a cursing lot.

I love books. I love hurling them when I finish.

And Cee... glasses will also be gone too. There is some radical surgery by laser that corrects eyesight defects.

BP 1 said...

The E-book lovers tell us that, E-reader provides a crisp black-and-white screen that resembles the appearance and readability of printed paper. Thanks to electronic paper, a revolutionary new display technology, the screen is as sharp and natural as reading ink on paper—and nothing like the strain and glare of a computer screen. E-readers are great for people with eyesight problems, too - legibility is excellent, since one size doesn’t fit all, and you can increase the text size of your favorite book or periodical with the push of a button. If your eyes tire, simply increase the font size and continue reading comfortably. In America, this feature is making the e-reader relatively popular with older readers.

Hear what Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball said about the Amazon kindle e-reader
"I'm telling you, after five minutes I've ceased to think I'm looking at a screen. It's not like reading a computer screen. It's more like reading a piece of paper. I think it's actually clearer, easier on the eye than the printed word."

Darius Stone said...

Shiko. The demise of the book is inevitable. Evolution is one of those things that passes by with folks kicking and screaming about losing their creatures of comfort in the process. Ask manufacturers of good old fashioned telephone boxes who didn't really see the mobile phone coming because until Mo Ibrahim and his ilk indulged in plucking signals from the air in the early 80s, the idea of mobile phones enmass was laughable to any 3 dimentsional cable telephone user.

What is actually interesting about this topic is human kinds refusal to accept the internet and electronic communication as an integral part of human life and one that hsapes our behaviour, lifestyle, characteristics and habits, thinking its just an add on you can switch on and off at pleasure.

Just as folks moved from gramaphones to more sophisticated versions of vinyl, to cassette tapes, to CDs to MP3 and beyond, the book is checking out regardless of those who kick and scream about it.

Peter Njenga said...

My blogging hiatus is now over, I have eventually VUKAD to WordPress with two new blogs: ‘Peter’s Walkabout’ and ‘Green Kenya’.
Check these out at

Shiko-Msa said...

I see we all love our books, some for hurling purposes, some for décor.

Rombo I’d only consider the reader for newspapers which honestly have too much wide paper that loves to fly around. I like to read my Sunday papers out at the beach and with all the wind, a reader would probably come in handy.

Intelligensia how about the universe? Going green and saving the universe? Oh I know that smell of books.

BP there’s no way I’m going to listen to a book! Would that even be a book even? Wait what is a book? Let’s start from there. I have not doubt about the clearness and crispness of the E-reader. I’m sure someone took the trouble to make it as much like a book as possible. But what about the relationship a reader develops with books?

Mama Shujaa I love my books too. I’ve a thing for old books by the way. My bookshelf is part of my décor! I spend my good time ensuring it’s neat.

Cee we need a break from all these electronics! Some of them are making mankind plain lazy. Now some time in future we can’t even read we have to listen to books?

Our Kid I certainly don’t hurl my books across the room but many times I fall asleep reading and the book falls off. If I were to use a reader it’d probably get destroyed in the first week from all the falls. And that surgery, it crosses my mind every once in a while. But I’d have to do one eye at a time. Just in case.

Stone Cold sounds like you have a reader already ama there’s one coming your way soon. I’m certainly one who will give up the book kicking and screaming. I’m sure the demise of the book will take a long time though but it’s a good idea to start stocking up.

Peter Njenga I’m so tempted to vuka to wordpress too. I’ve been entertaining the idea for some time now with my frequent fights with google. Nitayarishie makao huko wordpress naja soon. Your sites are beautiful congrats.

31337 said...

sod the universe. it can take care of itself. for now i shall concentrate on me. :-)

PKW said...

But you can curl up in bed with a gadget or sit in a matatu, right?
I don't think the book's dying soon simply b/c in many places in the world, e.g. Africa, a very small % of people use electronic gadgets. But I guess there were naysayers about e-music too and now look where it has gone. When's the last time you used a cassette tape?

Mama said...

I am one of those people precipitating the death of hard-copy books. I do not waste my money on them.

Honestly, I hate books, I never read at all! I read blogs. I have read books all my life and they bore me to no end especially the big fat ones. I like reading online stuff coz of the 'Find in page' function. Now somebody just needs to convert some of my favourite novels into electronic form and I will be happy.

Otherwise there's no love lost between me and books, somebody call me for the funeral already.

Eish, Shiko hata wewe you hate google uende Wordpress? Mi,I even opened a wordpress blog then I forgot the name...hehehehehe!

Peter Njenga said...

This is a nice post. I honestly don't remember the last time I read a hard cover book. I do read a lot, and my entire library in on my laptop. So is my Bible, Dictionary, online newspapers, blogs na kadhalika.

Additionally, my vision of going green is better served when I actually practise paperless computing, read eBooks, listen to audio books and podcasts...

You may also want to look at a related post on Green Kenya:

Shiko-Msa said...

Gosh PKW I don't even have a cassette player! The one that used to be rewound with a biro. Hata ya video sina. Tough old days they were.

Yes I guess you can curl up with a gadget. In the matatu they'll grab it through the window and sell it for peanuts. And they wont even know what it is. They'll think it's a phone.

Mama that's another question about E-readers. Can you convert the old books you already have to electronic?

Google sometimes makes me feel like pulling my teeth. But it must be something i touched in the html and I'll discover it soon. It's their troubleshooting that sucks big time they should be able to help sort out such bugs.

Njenga thanks for the link on your site. Going green and going paperless are two things that rhyme perfectly. I can comfortably manage to go paperless in the office, indeed I do that as much as possible. But the reader...... not yet.

Eunuch said...

Old habits die hard and the time tested one never mutates even in the face of technology. BTW as you curl remember the gadget is emitting rays and they are not friendly to the laps and all that resides around there. You may live to eternally regret what frequent use of LAPTOS (on the laps) cost you. Someni vijana na mwisho wa kusoma .......

Anonymous said...

Will depend on your location on planet Earth, but I wouldn't bet my shilling on the "demise' of the book by 2020.

Maua said...

I yell at my son to read a book when he's on the computer for long, and he says, 'but I'm reading online'.

So, Shix, there u go, it's started. Only the 'Extra aged' like us curl up with books in bed.

Shiko-Msa said...

Eunuch these mandeloeo are coming with lots of baggage. To curl up with a reader, it'll have to be close to the face and chest.

HNG killing the book will take longer than is projected especially in these parts of the world. Problem will be when the printers actually stop printing. Then we shall have no choice but to read the soft copies. Lakini hiyo bado.

Maualicious welcome back after along hiatus. I see the new generation is already taking up reading online so the reader will not sound too strange to them.

Cee said...

This is crazy, they want to take away the joy of smelling old books, the dog ears, even the irritation of having to wear glasses due to many hours staring at a screen. Then finally they introduce Audio books, men this world aint headed in an interesting direction. So let me run and catch up with Rafiki on "It's our turn to read" lest I find, reading doesn't exist anymore

Kirima said...

I see this topic has ignited some pretty passionate responses. I would like to see ebooks become more popular especially if they can reduce the price of buying the books which it should since there is no paper, ink or binding to think about.
There is always alot of concern about strain on the eye but this is because people are thinking of LCD and CRT screens which are backlit and have a high refresh rate, the epaper used on the Kindle and other readers is not the same since it is not backlit, you have to read it in normal light like a book and there is no 50hz refreshing to strain your eye.
My only concern with ebooks especially here in the third world is the price of the dedicated gadgets and the lack of a good payment system for purchasing ebooks since credit card penetration is still very low but I thind Mpesa and Zap may provide some alternatives so all we need is a clever entrepreneur to come up with a local ebook store that accepts mobile phone transfers.

Mama said...

Am I allowed to say I like the way this site looks without a lot of widgets and ads?

It looks very clean and uncluttered. I had been meaning to remove my google ads but a friend convinced me otherwise, I think they clutter my blog but they will stay for now.

Shiko-Msa said...

Kirima see just how passionate readers are about books? Thanks for the clarifications about the reader. Where do I get to put my beautiful book marks?

Mama yes you're allowed.

This site at the moment is under construction. I removed stuff in a feat of temper occasioned by some time last week. It was easier and less painful than uprooting my hair or pulling my teeth out.

Some things like my followers box and entrecard will be coming back but the ads and what nots nope.

BTW I'm still having trouble posting.

Anonymous said...

It might be the end of the book as we know it baby...and am loving it. with that said, i actually do miss...infact i still have those dog eared and old smelling books.

Nairobian Perspective said...

hi, i think i would rather prefer the e-reader in time although the traditional book in the hand seems unbeatable and preferable but we have to move with technology which aims to make things easier, by the way your entrecard widget doesnt seem to load nowadays, ive been visiting your site almost on daily basis but cant drop my calling card, have a nice weekend!

Nairobian Perspective said...

hi, i think i would rather prefer the e-reader in time although the traditional book in the hand seems unbeatable and preferable but we have to move with technology which aims to make things easier, by the way your entrecard widget doesnt seem to load nowadays, ive been visiting your site almost on daily basis but cant drop my calling card, have a nice weekend!

Shiko-Msa said...

Nairobian my Entrecard widget is coming back soonest. I'd deleted all add ons at some point but I've saved the code.