What Will Become Of Our Books?

Alexander Field over at his “The Mystery & The Magic” blog, didn’t tag anyone, but I feel tagged.

He just wrote a blog post on “How Will We Read?“, and it got me thinking about physical, printed books vs. the new era of digital books.

As much of a digital, technology centered person that I am, I don’t think I will ever think it a good thing if books go 100% digital.

There is something unique about each printed book. The creativeness of the artist and publisher stands out. The size of the book, the glossy feel. There is a thrill as I hold a new book in my hand and first bend its cover to reveal the mysteries within.

And I can tell the books that I love just by looking at my bookshelf.

Desiring God by John Piper

Before me sits, perhaps 100 books, with another 200 behind me. And the one that is most used (besides my Bible) is my 1988 copy of Desiring God by John Piper.

Its edges are worn to the point the cover may fall off soon, and its front is bent and tattered—and yet I love it more for all that!

(And to prove that the digital era is upon us, here’s the free online version of Desiring God!)

And I don’t like the idea of being 100% dependent on technology to read books.



Dropping the thing.

Buying a new e-reader every few years.


But I know the digital-only era will come. The economics will settle it. The “save the trees” will settle it. The simplicity will settle it. The convenience will settle it.

Change is upon us. Book printers will go out of business. Publishers will morph. Alas, don’t the libraries know that by cooperating with Google to digitize their books that they will all become extinct one day? They feed the digital beast, and it will eat them.

And there’s the rub. We witness before us the end of an era, and though we may always be able to get a printed book, it will eventually become so rare we will think it antique, quaint, backward. Our descendants will think us odd that we wist for the days of “real” books. To them, a printed book will feel like a horse and buggy.

Well this is one person who’s going to hold onto his buggy for awhile.

8 thoughts on “What Will Become Of Our Books?

  1. I too am gonna hold onto my buggy…I love my small library of books and I don’t think they will entirely disappear ever…but you’re right, due to cost and trees and a host of other reasons, digital is happening. Digital is here!

  2. And there will be a lot of benefits, but still … there’s nothing like “pencil” notes in the margins. Typing comments on some little keyboard is crazy.

    The other issue is control … imagine an ill-meaning govt. banning swaths of books with a keystroke. Tracking which books you read. Cutting you off from all your books instantly if you step out of line.

    I wonder if the Bible will be the last holdout for a printed book.

  3. I’ve considered myself a luddite (jokingly) since I was in college, but though I tell people it for fun, I really do dislike the over-reliance on technology. I’ll never give up a book in my hand for words on some electronic device.

    I think you’ve struck a point, Robert, when you mention the government erasing history with the push of a button…reminds me of one of my favorite books: Fahrenheit 451

  4. Well, since the Luddites were attempting to preserve their jobs and way of life, I guess deep down we’re all Luddites.

    And the newspapers are feeling it first. I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing considering how the vast majority of them lean liberal and endorse liberal candidates.

    But these changes will affect us all. Hopefully the economy can recover and we as a people can stop digging our own deficit grave. If that holds, then the economy can absorb those job losses and spur innovation rather than stagnation—but I know its hard for a lot of people right now.

    If our nation can only keep its moral nose pointed straight, we’ll do fine. The problem is that we’re the moral equivalent of a trussed boar and we’re rolling downhill into red-hot lava.

  5. Sam,

    It’s amazing how God has used John Piper.

    My wife and I remember the day when John finally got on the radio in Minnesota for the first time … only to have his show canceled because it was “too controversial”.

    I’m sure there’s no problems with that now! Time has proven his message fresh, challenging, deep, and life-changing.

    Thanks for the encouragement, Sam!


  6. A small point of interest (to me) is that the Luddites (as I recall) were (at some point) sited in Nottingham! In fact, the Luddite craze was a bit presumptuous:

    Chant no more your old rhymes about bold Robin Hood,
    His feats I but little admire
    I will sing the Atchievements of General Ludd
    Now the Hero of Nottinghamshire
    Brave Ludd was to measures of violence unused
    Till his sufferings became so severe
    That at last to defend his own Interest he rous’d
    And for the great work did prepare

    So understandably I don’t like the Luddites, however I do find their name—Ludd-ite—extremely suspicious and possibly mythical. But the Luddites did have some high-ups on their side, like Lord Byron. Funny we still have to read his writings in lit class; I wonder why?

    Sherwood’s a’bloom,

    Adele Treskillard : )

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