However, this article is aimed at convincing you otherwise and there are reasons to prove it. The internet is not a replacement for books. Books should be cherished and admired not just for the content they hold but as physically accessible objects. This article lists 5 reasons the internet will not become a replacement for books, but more on that later.
Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting an acquaintance lucky enough to live in a truly British country home containing among other things a fine collection of bound antique books. Aesthetically, they made a huge impression on me, as if they had stood on the shelves for decades. The books were in great condition and on closer inspection it became clear this was a recent collection. Many of the titles were labelled ‘Folio’ and this is how I came to learn of the organisation known as the Folio Society.
The Art of Bookmaking
I hadn’t heard of the Folio Society until then but was delighted to learn this publisher was dedicated to restoring the elegance of bookmaking. Their bindings are specially designed and their illustrations are specially commissioned, all with the aim of being published “in a format worthy of the contents”. Founded by Charles Ede, Tolstoy’s Tales was their first book in 1947.
You can see more recent editions, here, here and here. These books make great gifts for booklovers who want to make a statement on why we need great books and perusing the Folio editions inspired a whole new enthusiasm for book collecting. Here are some fine examples:
- The Mapp and Lucia Novels by EF Benson
- The Wessex Tales by Thomas Hardy
- British Myths and Legends by Richard Barber
- A Tour Through The Whole Island Of Great Britain by Daniel Defoe
After learning of the Folio Society and their mission, it became even clearer why the internet, or more precisely, e-books on the internet are no substitute for the real thing. Below are 5 reasons why the internet cannot replace books:
Reason #1 : Keeping The Power On – in the story, Farenheit 451, of which Folio have published an edition, a totalitarian government attempts to suppress knowledge by burning all books. But it was a nuisance for them when they had to send soldiers to go house to house, searching top to bottom until they had every last book.
If all our content was digital, then all these soldiers would have needed to do is cut off the electricity and internet. Aside from a few remaining hours of battery life in our e-readers or tablets, our sum records of human knowledge would fizzle into darkness.
Reason #2 : Nothing Lasts Forever – books last longer than digital content. But wait? Doesn’t digital content last forever? Well, no, it needs to be stored on a server or hard drive or memory stick and like most materials, they physically degrade. The oldest book is estimated to be 2,500 years old. The oldest home computer has been around for a little over 1% of that time. And are you reading your books off the hard drive of one of these? . There is a whole science called ‘Generation Loss’, which describes how quality is lost between subsequent copies and transcodes of information. While it’s possible to make lossless copies of digital information, one better have a good backup strategy to keep up with ever-changing technology.
Reason #4 : Sorry, That Title is Unavailable – It is surprising to learn not that much historic written material has not been digitised. Why? Because even with techniques such as optical character recognition, it’s very difficult to quickly convert a book from hard copy into a digital format. If you intend to research a subject by using the internet, you probably only have access to a miniscule fraction of everything written about the subject in all of human history.
Reason #5 : You Can Tell A Book By Its Cover – Books reveal much more than their digital equivalents. When you lift a heavy, dusty, dog-eared hardcover book, you know you are looking at something which is old, has had a lot of time spent on it and mattered a lot to somebody. Besides, it’s just nice to hold something physical in your hand which represents the ideas or knowledge contained within.
So there you have it, 5 reasons why I believe we still need books and if you need reminding, the Folio Society have taken bibliophilia to a new level by creating beautifully manufactured and presented classic books of the highest quality. Not only is it a great pleasure to leaf through these editions but these books can also take pride of place on any shelf as a work of craftmanship.
I was so inspired I’ve decided to save up and slowly build up a small book collection and will update this blog with progress. With so many book fairs and second hand bookshops, it’s possible to slowly build up a collection of both second-hand classics and Folio editions without breaking the bank.