In the future, people will cease to own books

By Sanni Bolaji, of Ilorin, Nigeria. Sanny, 21, has a BSc in Geology and Mineral Sciences from the University of Ilorin, Nigeria. Please read her article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

Why do people read books? People read books for so many reasons but essentially, books are read for either knowledge or entertainment. As long as the saying, ‘learning never ends’ holds, then people will always read to know.

The prediction that people may cease to own books in the future does not necessarily indicate that people are reading less or that one may not have the need for books. Books are so important in the learning process that children are introduced to books almost immediately following admission into elementary schools. The effectiveness of learning by kids from colour books and storybooks with colourful illustrations cannot be overemphasized. As a child, I remember how exciting it used to be to colour those pictures, to smell the scent of paper pulp and to read the stories contained therein.

With the advancement of technology, more and more books have found their way to the internet, laptops and electronic readers. With portable e-readers such as Kindle, Sony reader, Apple iPad 2 and Kobo, you can have thousands of books in your pocket as opposed to carrying piles of books around. Although, the use of e-readers is still at its infant stage, the rate at which the youths consult the internet for almost everything indicates that we are fast approaching the era where anything in print will be in oblivion. The big question is: will e-books serve as a complete replacement for printed books? My answer is no, and I hope the following reasons will be convincing enough to support my view.

To acquire a printed book, you pay for it; you buy and you own it. Back in my secondary school days it used to be a thing of pride for me to own many books and when friends and family came visiting they admired and even borrowed books from my small library as I used to call it. But you do not physically own e-books and they can be deleted from the reader anytime. You cannot even write your names on them!

Even though e-books may be more cost effective and environmentally friendly as argued by some, they cannot be used everywhere. Here in Nigeria where we still have issues with power supply, you cannot always rely on your electronic device, but with your paper book you can read anytime anywhere. E-books are not readily available as compared to paper books and in a country like Nigeria where the average man lives on $2 per day, sophisticated electronic devices such as laptops, e-readers and iPads are considered luxuries.

I have seen people having strong connections with what they possess; sometimes these material possessions remind them of other people or events. A child may hold on to his parents’ books as a reminder, books when exchanged as gifts may have huge value to some, and some who scribble notes in their books will always recall what they were thinking as they read through certain pages with their notes on them.

Technology has helped in introducing better and easier ways of doing things thus we have devices such as emails replacing letters, laptops replacing typewriters and maybe e-books eventually replacing paper books, but as we welcome these innovations, older technology become history even though people might be willing to hold on to letters, typewriters and paper books. Digitalizing books is no doubt a good innovation, but it should not be a complete replacement for printed books, some of us still want to own books and one cannot help but wonder if in the future books will no longer belong to bookstores or libraries but to museums. Time will tell.

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