The printed book: A dying artform

In recent years, the publishing industry has seen significant changes, with emerging technologies challenging the landscape most of us grew up in. The rise of eBooks and audiobooks has not only increased accessibility to a wide variety of reading material but has also ignited a heated debate between physical and electronic formats.

Despite the enduring charm of printed books, there is an undeniable shift in reader preferences. As discussions surrounding sustainability gain momentum, the book publishing industry finds itself at the intersection of tradition and modernity, navigating the complexities of ‘old-fashioned’ choices and technological evolution.

Acknowledging this shift is crucial for ardent book enthusiasts who have long championed the tactile experience of flipping through physical pages, with the scent of ‘real books’ serving as a nostalgic charm. While some insist that nothing beats that, eBook enthusiasts point to the search function as a standout feature! Whichever way you look at it, technology is poised to be a driving force in shaping the future of the book publishing industry.

Printed books hold the charm of being collectible, displayable on bookshelves, and easily shared or gifted. However, it’s essential to acknowledge the environmental impact of the printing process. eBooks, while lacking the physical presence and collectability of printed books, are more environmentally friendly. The production of paper, ink, and the energy required for printing contribute to deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, and other ecological disruptions. As the world gravitates towards more sustainable practices, the carbon footprint associated with traditional book publishing becomes a topic of scrutiny.

Let’s not forget the costs involved. The printing process is by no means cheap. Although eBooks are usually more budget-friendly, with many classics offered for free, extended reading on electronic devices may cause eye strain and disturb sleep patterns. Furthermore, eBooks depend on devices with limited battery life and might be confined to specific devices or software. Without adequate backups, eBooks could be vulnerable to file loss, especially if devices encounter malfunctions or are lost. ‘Real book’ book lovers can’t help but smirk a little when they see eBook fans desperately searching for a charger, secure in the knowledge that the only thing they need is a well-lit room and maybe a comfy chair.

Printed books may be cumbersome and weighty, making them less travel-friendly, especially when carrying multiple books. They may also pose accessibility challenges for those with physical disabilities who could benefit from adjustable font sizes and other digital features found in eBooks, which can be conveniently stored in a single device, allowing readers to carry an entire library wherever they go.

While print books continue to hold a significant share of the market, it’s essential to recognise the changing dynamics. As we step into 2023 and beyond, technology’s role in book publishing is set to become even more pronounced. The debate between hard-copy and eBook enthusiasts is likely to intensify, reflecting a broader societal transition toward digital consumption.

Despite the undeniable decline in print book demand, it’s noteworthy that physical books still retain their popularity. The sensory experience they provide remains unparalleled, drawing readers who appreciate the traditional aspect of reading.

Can the charm of printed books withstand the technological wave reshaping the publishing landscape and the eco-conscious state reshaping the world?

About the author

Wilman Fikker Publishing House

WFPH is a Muslim woman-owned publishing house run by Khadija Joosab Moti, a sister who is committed to the art of storytelling and who believes in the power of da’wah through fiction. Each story they bring to life is a reflection of those values.

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