Keeping Physical Media Alive: The Concerns of a Bookworm

As an avid reader, book-buyer and borrower, keeping physical copies of content is a big concern of mine in this rapidly digitizing world. In some ways it feels like the scenes in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where Joel and Clementine run through the Joel’s mind trying to preserve memories of their relationship. (Feel free to click the link for the trailer so you have a good idea of the visual representation of my anxiety and neurosis.) I have four library cards so wherever I am I can get a book.
imgresI have one in my hometown in New Jersey, one at my summer home on Cape Cod, one in my college town and one in Germany where I studied abroad. There is a sticker on my laptop that reads, “I love my public library”.

The bumper sticker on my laptop. Click the image to purchase your own!

If you also love your public library click here to purchase your own bumper sticker!

There are few people who take book borrowing this seriously. I’ve spent a lot of my college career as a Film and New Media Studies major researching and creating projects on the future of the book industry. Each time I’ve winced at the idea that maybe this time researchers will be less optimistic. Amazon sales are constant and their domination of the book-buying world is downright unsettling. The company’s goal to make every piece of media (book or otherwise) available to their customers is worrisome. Wheeler Winston Dixon, author of Streaming: Movies, Media, and Instant Access, advises caution with regard to Amazon’s success. He quotes a longtime literary agent, Richard Curtis who said, “Everyone’s afraid of Amazon. If you’re a bookstore, Amazon has been in competition with you for some time. If you’re a publisher, one day you wake up and Amazon is competing with you too. And if you’re an agent, Amazon may be stealing your lunch because it is offering authors the opportunity to publish directly and cut you out” (73). As a sales employee at an independent bookstore, Yellow Umbrella Books, it’s not uncommon to cringe on the job when someone mentions Amazon in the store. Dixon brings books into his discussion on live-streaming because of the power of instant gratification in our emerging digital culture. His experience researching the rapidly changing media industry leaves him feeling concerned that streaming culture will leave absolutely no physical media left. The popularity of Kindles and their low prices certainly lends itself to concern. However, I remain pretty optimistic. Public libraries are social hubs and one of the only places guaranteed to be both quiet and a space to explore intellectual discussions/pursuits. These public spaces are safe and foster an interest in learning for all ages. In terms of book sales, the bookstore I work at is packed all summer long. Despite the urge for instant gratification, there is still a desire to physically hold a book and turn its pages. They are also heartfelt gifts where people can write personal messages and wishes for the gift receiver on the front page. I can’t say that digitizing materials and instant streaming isn’t popular and widespread. I can say that for myself and for others, there is a backlash against screens and their dominance in society. There are people who want to preserve the old forms of media, we just have to find each other and stick together.

For more on the future of the book industry check out my Pinterest board and my WordPress Project! 

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