Are paper books becoming obsolete?
On the past life of a paper book
I clearly remember the times of my childhood when I used to spend countless hours hiding in the dim cellar of our family house reading another solid paper book. It was a great time. My mother used to bring old newspapers, magazines and other old paper to a nearby recycling facility and receive a new book in exchange. It was a common process of exchanging paper waste for books, since books were really cheap. Our family has accumulated a considerable library over the years, until the beginning of the century, when prices for good books started to rise in Post - Soviet countries due to higher production costs, while paper waste was still collected for pennies. By the time I finished the college, most books were already available in digital copies online. I even wrote my bachelor's thesis using mostly literature found online, since paper books I needed were rare and too expensive to order them from a bookstore.
Now, as time has passed, I see people reading news and other information from portable digital devices. However, it is believed that the question of digital vs paper books makes no sense anymore, it has been in discussion for far too long: most likely people will continue to buy paper books while using digital handheld devices to read basic information like daily news, documents, articles etc. Information distributed on paper will still continue to live side by side with digitally distributed media.
More than just a book.
Lets imagine a writer who has just finished a novel: the newly written book to its author is like a child to his or her parent: It most likely took months, if not years to write a novel that is going to be distributed in the form of "zeros" and "ones," in a single small file. This file will never have a personality of its own: no smell, no weight as such, no color, etc. Doesn't it sound miserable? I bet it does. Furthermore, buyers will never feel that joy of waiting for the ordered book to arrive, of tearing that parcel into pieces in order to get hold of that new addition into home library, the new "personality" that will stand out with its own color, size, font... As we all know, a good paper book looks even better when it gets older, its value rises in such way that we can sometimes see how many people may have read it, how it has been treated or maybe marks on the margins and bookmarks tell us what the book was used for etc.
A pocket library phenomenon
Now let us take a look at the owner of a pocket book reader: he or she is standing in a long line waiting for something and he knows that his time will never be wasted; they can always entertain themselves with a next novel in a collection of several hundred books that were once purchased from an online shop. One can argue if this is a consumer or a die hard book lover. In any case, this is a win situation from the point of view of a reader. My only question will be: can great novels be sold as digital books or do they deserve a better (and possibly longer) life on paper?
Literature versus media
Despite numerous scientific experiments aimed at finding out what kind of reading is best and what is going to win the market in the future, it still obvious that paper versus digital is always going to be the question of esthetics: serious novel readers will not abandon paper books even if they decide to purchase a Kindle or an e-reader for easier access to a library while being away from home. On the other hand, reading articles, newspapers and magazines from compact electronic devices may become a norm in the future. Lets see. In any case, there is one disadvantage of accessing a book or any other written text from a digital device: apart from reading skills that we get once and forever at school, one always needs to learn how to operate the next electronic device that invades the market, which may distract from thoughtful reading.(1)