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The End of An Era - Brittany Standley

The End of An Era by Brittany Standley

I have been involved with Barnes and Noble for several years. Over a decade actually. It has been near and dear to my heart during all that time. So I thought I would blog about the controversy between eBooks and real, touch and feel old-fashioned paper books.

There is an opinion that books are no longer in style and that the eBook is taking over, but I do not feel this to be the case. There will always be a need for textbooks, (a specific genre I know) for as long as there are schools and institutions of higher learning, they will be around.

I cannot stand to read a textbook on a computer screen, I enjoy the feel of the paper between my fingers, the pleasure of actually going into the bookstore to find the item I am looking for and then maybe finding an unexpected treasure. Not to mention, when I am studying I loath, hate and utterly despise trying to highlight something with a fingertip or small utensil that barely fits between my pudgy fingers in an effort to remember something important.

For those of us lucky enough to have teachers who allow open book texts, the eBook promises something interesting. The possibility of navigating quickly through the extensive material one had to learn throughout the semester. Most eBook’s have some sort of note-taking capability with which the reader is able to make the correct notation in the proper location. The difficulty is then finding those notes when rushed as in an exam. Suddenly, an eBook is not quite so user friendly and there is a longing for a real paper book that one can physically flip through. On the plus side of eBooks, once in the right section, all one has to do is type a word or phrase into the find box and magically the answer is at your fingertips.

There is also something to be said for the provider of eBooks to recommend additional eBooks to read. When clicking through all the different reading selections, one quickly becomes lost and it is not always easy to navigate back to the text previously looking at twenty minutes ago. Whereas in a brick and mortar bookstore, you only have to walk back a few paces to the bookshelf where previously ogling.

What do eBooks mean for the brick and mortar store? Borders are shutting down frequently, Walden Books generally do not exist except in smaller towns, Books a Million is still managing to stay profitable but for how long? Barnes and Noble is still in business but even they weren’t able to keep up with the technological side of the company and were forced to form a partnership with Samsung in order to maintain a holding with their Nooks (I would like to mention here that everyone in my family owns a Nook).

Due to a strange Catch 22, it is this strange embracing of technology that has kept Barnes and Noble alive. They have managed to show the wonderful aspects of an eBook and all that implies. The convenience of carrying around FOUR HUNDRED books in your purse instead of one rather hefty novel for example. Yet…they still sell hard cover, print materials. Why?

In the wonderful words of Jack Cheng: "I feel like with e-books, you often just get a meal on the same white plate as all the other meals," he mused. "But a nice hardcover is like having a place setting, having dinnerware selected to suit the food. The story is still the main thing you're there for, but the choices around it — the paper stock, the way the book is typeset, the selection of fonts — they add their own subtle flavors to the experience of that story."

Libraries are in a similar predicament. Employees are mandated to learn about the digitization of books in order to ‘keep up with the times’ and for some, this is too difficult and they are forced to resign. For others, it is merely a mark of the times we live in. Libraries have started to receive less funding then they have in years, but there is still something novel about the idea of being able to go a place that is quiet, has big comfy places to relax, where one can spend the whole afternoon reading anything they like. For free.

I do not believe that print books will ever go away entirely. There is something about the smell, the aesthetics of a bound book that is comforting, relaxing, and can spark a thrill that a document on a computer screen is simply unable to illicit.

What do you think? Are brick and mortar stores in trouble? Are libraries on their way into the history books? What does this mean for the publishers? Does this affect them financially or are eBooks simply a new medium in which to sell their wares?

We at 3P would love to hear your feedback!

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