It’s not my profession as a bookseller that makes me think we will always need books. In the rush to put everything in digital form, we make a lot of assumptions. One of them is that we will always have electricity. One look at the newspaper I still subscribe to lets me know that there is dissension all over the globe. Our diplomats fly from one trouble spot to another trying to make peace in places that may be about to acquire nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction. Our computers and phones keep us connected to people throughout the world and we stay aware of the impending threats. However, when we are willing to get rid of books, we make the assumption that no one ever will push the button and that terrorists will never be able to knock out our communication systems.
Where would we get our stories should we be subject to cyber terrorism? I suppose we’d all have some to tell. And maybe we’d all be trying so hard to survive we wouldn’t need just stories. We might actually need information in hard copies to read for our survival. If we did have some time on our hands, it might be handy to have access to books to entertain, inspire, and give us hope.
Even if we continue to have relative peace, our digital communication is often interrupted. Phone lines go down — especially in more rural areas. Where I live, a good wind following a good rain, or even a bird on the wires above, can knock out our power for hours or even days. During those times, books are treasured companions.
When reading a beautifully illustrated book to a child, nothing beats sitting on the sofa with a physical book on one’s lap and children cuddled up on both sides to share the view. I can’t see a Kindle really replacing that. They will probably improve them in time, but I doubt if they will feel like books in the hand. Touching an icon is not the same at all as turning a genuine page and getting a glimpse of the next one.
Books also connect me to those who preceded me in history. Many biographies and journals will never be published in digital form — especially those now out of print. The authors of these live on in physical books, which will continue to be read by those who are interested in them. Though it’s easy for anyone to publish digitally today, this only started a few short years ago. Some writers from the past will only be found in books.
I personally will always want books — not just stories.