A couple years ago, I was given a Kindle for my birthday. I remember being excited; I was ready to read my favorite classics on the same device wherever I wanted, eager to swipe the touch screen, anxious to download dozens of applications from the app store. But, most of all, I was excited to just read digitally. I was excited to read on a screen, was ecstatic to know that my eyes would absorb glowing, pixelated words… at least, I thought I was.
Digital copies of books seem to be overwhelming the current reader population. Even textbooks are slowly disappearing from my school and are replaced with electronic versions, distributed by links and loading screens.
So, with this personal experience acting as evidence in mind, do I think books will die in the future? Do I think they will disappear and lose their meaning?
No, I do not. I believe physical books will triumph over e-readers and digital novels, claiming victory for generations to come. And why do I believe this, even after I have been witnessing the decline of physical books for years now?
It’s because I know that humanity will never part from art, never part from its origins, never part from its instinct to cling to its history. In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald writes, “And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Physical and textual language provide this current that push us and hold us “ceaselessly into the past.” Its power lies in its roots to human history.
Even throughout prehistoric times, humans communicated through ways of art and self-expression. When you hold a book in your hand, the roots of humanity twine around your fingers, lock around your wrists. It is impossible to deny this type of emotion: the feeling of primitive simplicity, the sight of words on a page and the negative space surrounding them. The syntax, the structures, the sentences— they are familiar through this bond we have to the past. They are familiar through the paper beneath our palms. Reading with a book in your hand– the pages slipping between your fingertips– simply feels… right.
The reason why we still create art—including music, dance, film, paintings, drawings, novels, and poems—is to grasp these roots we recognize so clearly and to stem from them. We constantly create new branches for future generations. As a result, it is guaranteed that we will never deviate from the same roots we have always known.
This is precisely why I collect physical books, and why I read physical copies. Not for the pride or the display. But for the everlasting feeling of wholeness and connectedness that I cannot experience through my Kindle.
Books have always been stubborn contributors to our history. And I know they will not give up so easily.
If you have any insight on this subject, comment below; I’d love to hear your thoughts.