Books are the vessels for some of our earliest learning and repositories of our earliest information. Consider epic poetry (Dante’s Inferno), folklore (Grimm’s Fairytales), tales (Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales), and religious texts (the Bible, Tanakh, To Te Ching). We turn to books for wisdom, knowledge, and contextual information for an incredible multitude of things, from basic definitions of words to esoteric compilations of opinion about the proliferation of algae.
I’m not going to lie, the rise of the Kindle’s popularity over the past few years has been painful for me to watch in some ways. Books, to me, are almost sacred. They fill a role that very few other things can, and I vehemently believe that a shiny (albeit beautifully designed) piece of technology that you swipe instead of turning a page can’t entirely fill those shoes. We can talk about the space of storing books, or the green factor, or that producing an e-book is significantly more efficient than a traditional printed book, but nonetheless, I believe nothing compares to old book smell and the feeling of paper under your fingers. Even though I hold this belief, I also understand and appreciate the implications of technology on literature and the publishing industry.
Historically, books were one of the only forms of entertainment available for the rich and the poor. Penny novels and scandal sheets were an inexpensive way to escape from the every day and the drudgery of real life. This sentiment remains true today, even if the rise of technology has slowed the sales of paper books. Amazon released data that showed exponential growth in e-book sales from 2008 to present, with the biggest peak during the height of the US recession. We can draw a conclusion from this that during tough times when money gets short, we still turn to the written word as a little vacation from reality and go on an adventure for an hour or two. E-books are making vast amounts of classic and modern literature more easily available than ever before, and less expensive as well.
Technology is also making telling your own story more attainable. Self-publishing is on the rise, with over 211,000 titles in 2011 created on alternative publishing platforms like Writing Life, Kindle Direct Publishing, and BookBaby. These platforms decentralize the decision-making process for what gets published and what doesn’t; allowing everyone to make a few bucks off of their manifesto or piece of fiction. Some authors are even making up to 6 figures a month, like Hugh Howey, the author of the best-selling “Wool Series.”
My conclusion from these statistics is that books and literature are still a huge part of our lives — simply appearing in different forms. Here are some ways to support this evolving industry:
- Buy a self-published book, either printed or electronic. Check out this list by GoodReads.
- Join a reading circle and build a community around your interest in books and literature.
- Join a writer’s community and challenge yourself to express the ideas you’re kicking around in your head.
- Self-publish a piece of writing and contribute to the evolution of books, and make a few bucks too!
Do you have an idea for a book that you’ve always wanted to write but never thought you could? Now you can! Tell us about it in the comments.