Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Death of Print Books

On the occasion of our 53rd wedding anniversary, my wife and I were ruminating over our collection of 6000 books – old books, new books, books on literature, books on medicine, books on writing, books of biographies and autobiographies, books on gardening, cooking and the fine arts, books on the present and the future.

We are moving to smaller quarters. We recently decided to downsize our collection. We called in a well-known book dealer to buy books we didn’t read anymore.

The dealer, after looking over our collection, said, “ I can’t give you any money. These books won’t sell.” We were stunned. The books represented the cream of our culture. “People, “ he explained, “ don’t buy old books, only books by current best-selling authors, only books featuring current celebrities or the latest fads.”

We were astonished. Where have readers of good books gone? Was there no interest in the books that shaped our culture, told of our past, predicted our future?

Sadly, we concluded we are members of a past generation – buyers and readers of physical books with embedded printed pages. In our place and in the place of books had come a new generation who receive their information on what to read from Kindle, tweets, Facebook, streaming videos, blogs, apps, iphones, and books promoted on TV.
New books can be parked in the Internet Cloud, taking no room, and just a click away. Old books are space-occupying dinosaurs, housed and treasured by an older generation.

It is a sad new world for others like us. We are people of another generation who like the tactile pleasures of sitting before a crackling fireplace, of cozying up propped by a pillow in a warm bed, with a good book in hand; of fondling well-made, well-designed , well-composed books, or simply admiring shelves of well-ordered handsome books, and sorting through them with our mind’s eye, or a fond hand that appreciate the feel of good books.

We live in a disruptive digital age that has displaced books to the electronic cloud and the dustbin of history. I recognize the demands of immediacy and instantaneity in our fast-paced society, but the death of print books is a sad chapter in our culture.

Richard L. Reece, MD, Old Saybrook, Connecticut

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