BURNABY, B.C. (CUP) 8212; I was reading a textbook the other night, when my eyes briefly made their way to the top right-hand corner of the page and I couldn’t find the digital clock.
I’m so conditioned to being on my computer that I was expecting to look at the corner of a book and find out what time it was. This moment made me think about how book rituals have changed.
Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1441. This revolutionary device allowed for the widespread transmission of information and broke the previous space and time limitations of an oral culture.
A university student in 2010 could read the exact same words and play with the exact same ideas as someone in Europe in 1500. Trippy, no? Stories and information can be passed orally through generations, but we’ve all played the game telephone and we all know the message usually doesn’t remain intact by the time it reaches its destination.
Since the book in its printed form has been around for so many centuries, it’s rather unsettling to think that some people, Ghostbuster Egon Spengler included, have no problem proclaiming, “Print is dead.” I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, given its history and significance, the diminishing status of the printed word is just as curious as the diminished state of the environment, though obviously far less important. There are, after all, alternatives.
Enter Amazon.com, the American e-commerce giant that has, dare I say, revolutionized the way we consume books. Not only do we no longer need our local independent bookstores 8212; not that we have many left to choose from 8212; we don’t even go to our local big-box discount book retailer. The closure of bookstores across the country is a testament to this reality.
We don’t even have to leave our homes anymore. Instead, we stay in our sweatpants all day, unshowered with fuzzy coffee teeth, racking up credit card purchases. One might say that e-commerce leads to bad hygiene and debt and 8212; while we’re at it 8212; that it’s bad for the local economy, community and culture.
Amazon has also changed the way we read books 8212; excuse me, “e-books.” The e-book has been kicking around in some form or another for the past few decades, but Amazon made the market commercially viable in 2007 when it released the Kindle. Now you can buy Amazon e-books from their website to be read on their device. They’ve been monstrously successful and in July announced that e-book sales have outpaced those of hardcover books.
Amazon may have launched the modern era of e-books, but it isn’t alone on the market. Other companies like Sony, Samsung and even Barnes & Noble are all getting in on the fun. When Apple released the iPad tablet earlier this year, the company also launched a new online bookstore to sell “iBooks.” In just a few short years, e-books have gone from a novelty to a market worth over half a billion dollars.
The initial cost of buying an e-reader and building an e-book collection can be rather daunting and even alienating to those on a limited budget. You’ll also need a credit card to purchase books, since I doubt your local library yet boasts a phenomenal e-collection. Still, the convenience of obtaining an e-book is a huge boon for those who have the means. It only presents problems for kids, teens and the poor 8212; so, most people.
In the end, I just love books. Who doesn’t like the anticipation, adrenaline and satisfaction that build while battling your way through the city and your packed schedule to grab a new book. It’s a ritual, like drinking coffee and booze, and you aren’t going to give either of those up anytime soon, now are you?