I have always dreamed of having my own library. You know what I’m talking about: stacks upon stacks of books, with ladders to reach the highest shelves and a cozy spot to curl up and get lost in other worlds.
In other words, the kind of library that the Beast gave to Belle.
And so, when e-books entered the literary world, I was determined to avoid them. After all, you can’t have a huge library with electronic books. When my parents asked if I wanted a Kindle, I felt as though I had been personally attacked. “I like holding a physical book,” I protested. I mean, really. What book lover would ever buy one of those stupid things?
Millions, actually. Eventually, even my own pretentious attitudes toward electronic books disappeared, and I now own a Kobo–thanks to my wonderful parents, who probably always knew that I wouldn’t be able to resist the lure of downloadable books. My Kobo has not destroyed my life as a reader, nor has it destroyed my dreams of owning a huge library. I still buy books faster than I can read them.
Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them.”
― Neil Gaiman
Despite the amount of bookstores that are still standing, many still speculate that the e-reader signifies the end of libraries and traditional bookstores (Borders going out of business didn’t give them much hope). Others worry that we just don’t read anymore.
Millennials probably get blamed for their lack of reading skills more than any other generation, simply because we grew up with the Internet. But like e-readers, the Internet has only supplemented our bookworm life. Goodreads, for instance, is a website dedicated to talking about books; even social media sites like Tumblr and Instagram have thriving book communities.
My experience as a bookstore employee has also convinced me that books still have a bright future. Customers ask for books by their favorite author, or for my personal recommendations. Children beg their parents to buy several books at a time. People spend hours in the store reading and deciding what to buy. Despite twenty-first century technology, the book business is alive and well.
It is also true that nowadays, we are reading other forms of the written word–e-books, yes, but also blogs, articles, literary journals, fan fiction, and other online novels. As far as I know, these aren’t considered in the studies that allegedly prove that readers are rare…which is actually quite a shame. There are plenty of writers who blog for a living, or choose to write fanfics that are well over a 50,000 word count (the standard word count for novels), and they all need the support of readers. If we are so convinced that the future is destined to be a dystopian hell without libraries or well-read people, we must also learn to embrace stories in all their wonderful forms. It’s much more productive (and less annoying) than claiming that no one reads.
I can safely say that I’ve let go of any cynicism or fear about the future of reading. We may love modern technology, but we also love books. As long as they are writers with stories to tell and the people willing to read them, books will survive. And perhaps one day, we’ll each get a library that even Belle would envy.