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Now, imagining a world without print books is, for some people, not far removed from imagining some sort of horrific dystopia. A world without print books is a world without bookstores—a world without a new book smell, or the crinkle of turning pages, or the subtle yellow tint of an aged book.
A world without print books is a world without real, physical bookshelves—except in the homes of those old-fashioned book collectors who scour the web for a limited-edition print copy of their favorite novels.
A world without print books is a world where everyone must charge their e-readers at night or else risk not being able to read the next day due to a low battery. It's a world where no one can know what you're reading just by glancing at the spine in your lap, a world where book signings, indeed, become a tad more complicated.
Note that I did not say a world without print books is a world without reading or a world without authors.
You see, because a world without print books is something else, too—it's a world where children don't have to lug twenty-pound book bags to school or must use textbooks that are falling apart because it's too expensive to replace them or even must hide what they read because what would their classmates think if boys were caught reading girly books or vice versa?
A world without print books still has, ironically enough, print books on the market—they're just harder to come by and a tad more expensive. Owning a print copy of your favorite novel isn't commonplace—it's special. It means you took the time to get your hands on a limited-edition print copy, it means you are one of those slightly eccentric and mostly archaic book collectors (which is a title, I'm sure, that you wear proudly).
Yes, it's painful to imagine the closing of bookstores or the diminishing of book signing events and it's hard to look at our bookshelves and think that those paper things we took for granted all those years may one day be much more difficult to come by.
But just as people continued to listen to music long after the digital revolution in the music industry, people will continue to read and authors will continue to write. The written word will still be out there, and those stories we've learned to fall in love with will continue to be created and published—and really, isn't that the point?
Let me get this straight: I love print books just as much as any other book collector—I love adding books to my shelf and seeing those beautiful, colorful spines line up neatly next to each other as much as the next person. I love the new book smell, I love the feeling of turning the pages and looking at the texture of the page and how the text was laid out and even how the font that the publisher chose fits with the tone of the novel.
I love all of those things, and it's sad to think of a world where those nuances will no longer be appreciated.
But a world without print books is not the end of the world. There will always be something to read, new stories to immerse ourselves into and new characters to fall in love with.
I hope not to live to see a print-book-free world, but if I do, I guess I'll be one of those crazy book-collector types who hunt down those special limited-edition print copies like it's nobody's business. And I guess I'll proudly add it to my bookshelf while the younger members of my family roll their eyes at me.
Because although print books may one day become obsolete, they will never lose their place in our hearts.