Occasionally, we like to invite other Lionbridge team members to share their thoughts on hot topics you might be thinking about. So today, I’m pleased to introduce Milciades Castillo, one of our Customer Advocates, who manages a portfolio of our customer accounts and works out of our Waltham, MA headquarters. When he’s not reading, he thinks a lot about reading. Incidentally, he just happens to currently be reading, “This is How You Lose Her,” by Junot Diaz.
Do you remember that saying, “You’re only as old as you feel?” Well, they were lying. We must all encounter that moment when we realize just how old we are, and for me, someone who was born in the spring of 1989, that moment finally arrived. This occurred when my younger sister, a freshman in high school, asked me for help on her math homework. “Sure. Go grab a piece of paper and a pencil.” “I don’t have paper or a pencil…” she replied while snickering and probably wondering if I still used a sun-dial.
I soon learned that every single student at that high school received an iPad from the school; in fact, they used no school supplies at all – no paper, no pencils, no pens, no binders, no staplers, no books! Absolutely everything about their learning experience was digitized. Do you still feel like high school wasn’t that long ago?
Is this the direction we’re headed? A world where iPads and Kindles have a stranglehold on literature and the printed word is extinct? It is hard to imagine otherwise. Writer Mike Albee notes that, “The shift from printed to digital marks the key features of a society where comfort and accessibility are leading aspects in all lifestyle choices people make.” This is difficult to refute.
Think about it: if constant improvement is what we seek, then the jump from print to digital is only logical. Who doesn’t want the convenience of getting any book they want, at a lower price, and having the ability of carrying countless titles in their back pockets? This is literary convenience at its peak.
This transformation has already begun. I defy you to find one train trolley where the books outnumber the eReaders. I dare you to spot one coffee shop in Boston without Wi-Fi. This is the way that our society functions – we embrace whatever is faster, cheaper and ultimately, better. It’s getting harder and harder to make a case for print over digital
Does this mean that print will disappear entirely? Not necessarily. There are plenty of people, like me, who appreciate the aesthetics of a tangible book. There’s something undeniably magical about buying a new book, flipping the pages one by one, scribbling little notes on the margins, highlighting passages, lending it to a good friend who simply MUST read it, stacking it on the bookshelf with the rest of the ”trophies,” opening it up later, and falling in love with it all over again.
I couldn’t imagine not having Vonnegut, Huxley, Auster, Chaucer, Voltaire, Garcia Marquez, Diaz, Rousseau, Whitman, and so many others, on my bookshelf just itching to retell me their tales. There is a certain satisfaction that is achieved after reading a book cover to cover that could never be truly captured on a Kindle. There is no way on earth that I am the only person who feels this way, so the question now becomes, “If the printed word is not doomed to a death similar to that of the 8-track, then what lies in store for its future?”
Writer Charlie Gallagher offers one reasonable answer to this question. He writes that, “It’s quite possible that it [hard copy books] could become a more premium alternative to eBooks, retaining its status but more so as a specialized, niche market.” Bookstores would still exist, though in far fewer numbers, and people would still buy books, but as more of a luxury item or perhaps as a gift. People are still going to want to buy actual books and put them up on shelves to display as medals; this will not be the norm, however, especially for future generations.
Lovers of books, myself included, should not view this digital revolution as a threat on the lifeline of paperbacks, but rather as an evolution. After all, what is a book if not a medium for the expression and proliferation of ideas? The written word evolved from far older oral traditions; verbal exchange of ideas undoubtedly led to written. This is simply the next phase in the cycle.
The eReaders and tablets are now carrying the baton until we reach an even more convenient medium. The advent of online publishing and Kindles allows authors to write more freely, reach larger audiences, and disperse their ideas faster, more efficiently and cost-effectively.
Thus, my fellow bookworms, there is absolutely nothing to fear.