And the book said…”Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Even in the digital age, the dead tree book (printed copy) is alive and well.
Wandering, not quite aimlessly, through a big box bookstore yesterday, it was heartening to see how busy the place was. People of every age, young to old, browsing for fiction, magazines, new releases, bargain rack, hard cover and soft cover. Upstairs and downstairs people were reading actual printed copy. Wait a minute…I though dead tree books were supposed to be dead.
Advent of the Digital Edition
Several years ago, devices like the Nook, Kindle and IPad arrived on the scene. They were the flavor of the month to be sure. They were also supposed to be the slow and painful death of the printed copy. I must admit I was as smitten as the next guy. I started buying all my 40K reading material for IBooks and downloaded it to my IPad. My wife got a Nook and was downloading her favorite authors as well. Neither of us could be seen with an actual book in our hands for several months. I wonder if it was the newness (word?) of the EBook reading experience, or a genuine desire to change for the long term. I also remember a few, very few, of the guys in my local 40K group started downloading FAQs and Codices to their phone. It seemed for a while that the Digital Age had arrived and nothing was going to stop it. Dead tree books were truly dying, and printed codices and rulebooks were breathing their last breaths. Or maybe not…
This Too Shall Pass
After about a year of getting all of my fiction in digital form, I started buying printed books again. Not really sure what happened. I think for me, the novelty had worn off and I actually missed the visceral feel of turning the pages and moving the bookmark. Others in my family were doing the same. As for my 40K codex purchases, I never went over to digital. It was just as easy to find a page in a printed codex as it was to look it up on a phone or IPad. Moreover, I never got how folks preferred to read a codex on that tiny screen compared to a paper copy. I could see it for FAQs, but not for a full blown army book. Now that I am playing Infinity, I always use a printed rulebook. On more than one occasion when there has been a rules question, another player and I would rush to see who could find it first. Funny thing; I always get there first. I have a paper rulebook, his is on his tablet. Just sayin’. Also, I have enjoyed getting back into reading S&T (Strategy and Tactics) magazines published by Decision Games. I read both S&T as well as Modern War. I know that many of you wargamers out there were raised on S&T, and most of us have fond memories of those days.
What Does The Future Hold
Even at school, I rarely see a student reading a book or magazine on a digital device. And let me tell you, there are LOTS of students reading books, even today. Most importantly, they are reading printed copy, and using their phones, tablets and laptops for social media, YouTubing (is that a verb now?), and other nefarious activities. The bottom line is that after getting a strong start out of the block, I think that digital reading materials have settled into a specific market share, and this seems to have stabilized. I for one am happy about this. Just like so many other trick ponies in the digital age, electronic devices have their place, and certainly provide a rich venue for pursuit of knowledge and socializing. They have also proved a valuable resource for minatures gaming, with programs such as Army Builder for 40K and Mayanet for Infinity. As for their part in the pastime of reading, they have found a corner and are happily sitting in it, watching the rest of us open a book and turn the pages. It seems all the talk of the death of the dead tree book over the last several years has been like so many other modern age predictions; attention grabbing when made, but never coming to pass.
I should also mention something related to the focus of this article. Board gaming has made a comeback in recent years. After years of video and PC games in the ascendancy, board games are increasing popular, especially with families and younger folks. Here again we see a shift from the digital to the physical. It is interesting to see this happening on both the reading and gaming pastimes. Games Workshop, a late comer to the digital market with Digital Editions from Black Library, also sees the value in board games. In just the last couple of years, they have licensed several games (both board and LCGS) to Fantasy Flight, several of which are quite popular.
Paper or Binary? Which way do you roll?