Last week I was looking for a bookstore here in Roxas City because I’m planning to buy a book about computers. The only bookstore I knew left was Jade Bookstore along Roxas Boulevard going to Gaisano City Mall. I notice that the bookstore is already gone it was replaced by a new cell phone accessories store. I don’t know if there’s anyone here in the city who sells books anymore. The only thing I should do in order to buy a book is going to Iloilo City just to buy a book in National Bookstore which is too far away from here. My question now is this. Are bookstores dead? There is some news that e-books have overtaken paper books sales wise at Amazon.com, logically it becomes a question worth asking. But paper books do have their qualities. First of all, they do not require electricity or batteries. If you drop them, they are shockproof. Also, the merits of reading metal typefaces on acid free paper, with nice artwork covers, in a comfortable library or bookstore with a cup of coffee at hand, is one of the cheap finer pleasures in life. On the other hand, if you are a medical or a law student and have to lug around several books, e-books (if you like them) might be a useful alternative if the books you need are available in that format.
There is some ineffectiveness in the traditional book business. Some branches may carry some copies of the book you are looking for, while others may not. So here you are looking for a copy in one branch, but the book you are looking for might be in another branch. This is in my opinion, the main advantage of e-books at the moment – efficiency in distribution. You want a book, it is always there as a pdf (or ePub or other formats) electronic copy waiting to be distributed to you wherever you are with your ereader and a Wi-Fi connection. And it you have a USB flash drive you can save as many as e-books you want depending on the size of your USB flash drive. Another benefit is fewer trees are cut to make the paper for the book, but there is a very small carbon footprint when you consume power for your ereader.
As for the reading experience itself, there are some people who swear by e-book readers, and there are those who prefer the feel of paper. That’s like asking people whether they prefer beer or wine. That’s fine; let people read in whatever way they feel comfortable. Here in Philippines, e-books and ereaders have not really taken off yet. This is not surprising since majority of the population cannot yet afford ereaders (nor want them). But it is important to note that most of the manufacture (and even some design) of these devices comes from this part of the world. And with the increased adoption of smartphones running Google Android or iPhone and other advanced smartphone OS’es that can actually run e-book apps, any smartphone is technically (but not optimally) an ereader. It might be able to display the e-book, but ereaders built specifically for that purpose are easier on the eyes if you plan to read a long e-book.
There are even more advanced e-books that are coming out called “enhanced” or multimedia e-books, which should play to the strengths of devices like Apple’s iPad and similar devices. From my perspective, e-books and ereaders are an alternative – and not a replacement.
Reading is reading, whether on paper or on an ereader screen. We shouldn’t automatically think that they will make bookstores obsolete, but neither should we automatically count them out. Bookstore businesses may be affected, but not necessarily be replaced yet, by e-books and ereaders. After all, there are times when you just want to turn off the computer (or whatever device you have), and just be in the real world. But whether traditional bookstores can survive is really a function of how they adapt or choose to pretend they can ignore this new trend.