2020 is considered to be the most challenging year for many people. The onset of the novel corona virus has created a new norm for everyone: face masks, physical distancing, limited and small gatherings, work-from-home and virtual meetings, on-line shopping; and even, online dining. These new norms have greatly affected, not just the communities’ routines, but also the businesses that are dependent on the communities. Establishments have closed, mostly those that are considered non-essential; and, even major companies have laid off workers. Countries around the world are in a dilemma on controlling the spread of the virus and reviving the economy. Many would say that this is not the best year to do business because the global pandemic has changed how the world does business. However, some people seize this situation as an opportunity. While everyone is locked down in their homes, this is just the perfect time to indulge in different activities that would make your stay at home enjoyable, convenient, and budget-friendly; and, what other home activities that are enjoyable, convenient, and budget- friendly except than reading books?
Book publishers and book stores have adapted to the new norms. And, even if books are considered unessential in these trying times, books have actually helped a lot in filling in the idle hours while being locked down at home. Charlie Maclean, owner of Café Books in Canmore, Canada, narrated to Bow Valley News,
The desire to read something has increased for sure. Doing something as wonderful as reading books, which can take them to many worlds as they're sitting in their armchair, supports the local bookstore and is very much appreciated. We want to be here for a very long time.
And yet, for Mclean’s business to survive, his book store closed and opted to operate online with curbside pick-up services and personal deliveries. Maclean added that an interest on books with local authors and local history are rising. Books of local authors are readily available, with stocks at hand; plus, the shared connection and experiences with the author and the readers are the reasons for the increased interests. Maclean explained that small-town bookstores are highly dependent on the community; and, multinational book distribution companies, like Amazon, are their biggest competition. Hence, small-town bookstores rely much on books with local authors and local history because mostly of the popular books are available online with book distribution companies.
Allison Hill of the American Booksellers Association reported to the Los Angeles Times that even though the pandemic has threatened a permanent closure to many independent booksellers, their online bookselling websites have a traffic increased of 250%. For example, Bookshop.org reported a 400% increase in sales, “which put $100,000 back into the bookshops’ bank accounts.”
Raymond Alikpala, a Filipino lawyer and equality-rights activist, and author of the book “Of God and Men: A Life in the Closet”, believes that the shelter-in-place policy of many states, plus the surge of unemployment, has caused the continuous increasing demand on books because reading a book is one of the most productive activities one can do at home. Alikpala even launched his new book this August to take advantage on the demands of books.
However, many asks how can printed books survive in the advent of e-books. Michael Tamblyn, CEO of e-book and audiobook seller Rakuten Kobo, shared with Los Angeles Times that their e-books have a reported sales amounting to what they usually make during holiday seasons. Thus, digital copies have taken a toll on the sales of printed books. Moreover, a number of author tours have been cancelled as travel restrictions are getting tighter, printings are put on hold because printing companies need to lay-off some of their staff, and book expos are either cancelled or postponed. Yet, Caroline Porras, CEO of ClintKams Publishing, is positive that the demand on printed books will not be greatly affected by e-books and audio books because many people still prefer to read holding an actual book. Porras further explained that there is a different feeling of satisfaction for every page you flip than sliding your finger to the next page; plus, with printed books, no one has to worry about low battery issues and other technical issues.
The global pandemic has really burdened societies and governments with issues on public health, community safety, and economic breakdown. It further impacts individuals with anxiety and mental health issues as routines are changed. But, having a book to read can definitely help avoid mental stressors, especially in these most challenging times. This is called bibliotherapy or reading therapy. Dr. Mike Slade of the University of Nottingham examines patients and how they have recovered from mental illnesses through reading narratives. Therefore, books may be considered essential to help us get through with the new normal. And, if people need books, then, it is most important that we keep on publishing them.
The Printing Revolution
Until 868 AD, books were all handwritten. The most widely reproduced book in Europe that time was (you guessed it!) the Bible, and monks spent lifetimes in monasteries handwriting copies. The publishing and distribution process was pretty straightforward. But then a technique known as block printing was found in 220 AD for printing on clothes and was slowly adapted to print books. Blocks made of wood had letters and symbols that could be printed on paper. Then came the moveable typewriters in early 1040 AD, which was invented by the Chinese and later developed by Europeans in 1439.
But it wasn’t until after 1500 AD that the printing press, invented by German goldsmith Johannes Gutenburg, jump started the printing revolution. The speed of book publishing rose to an unprecedented scale as the cost of printing was significantly reduced. Books were more affordable and various printables, like newspapers, novels, etc. were published. This resulted to rapid spread of knowledge and literacy in the human race. Hooray!
Traditional Publishing and Self-Publishing
On the other hand, Self-Publishing works differently: The author pays the publishing house a service fee to print, distribute, and market the book on his/her behalf, making it possible for anyone to publish a book. Self-publishing is the trending and most efficient publishing model today.
With the reign of the digital era, the eBook now conquers the world of publishing. Because the process is so quick and hassle-free, many authors now prefer to publish their work online as eBooks in Kindle devices—a tablet for reading invented by Jason Merkoski for Amazon (not the rainforest) in 2007 AD. This makes the evolution of books a “revolution”—literally going full circle from clay tablets to kindle tablets. History really is doomed to repeat itself. Crazy right?
It’s amazing how the face of publishing evolved through history. Today, audiobooks and eBooks are a lifestyle. However, some people still crave the scent of perfume in old paperbacks, the pleasure of fiddling the pages with your finger, and the weight of a heavy classic novel between one’s hands. So which reader are you? The tech-savvy or the quintessentialist? Tell us in the comments!