Are paper books dying?

E-readers from Indigo, Amazon and Sony are changing the book world, but not in the way you would think

What started out as telling stories using spoken word has evolved over time and is now breaching the world of technology.

Electronic books (ebooks) are the newest method of sharing stories and their popularity is steadily increasing.

Indigo, Amazon and Sony, among others, all have their own version of the electronic book reader (e-reader).

But these new and evolving e-readers bring into question the fate of hardcopy books in places such as public libraries and used bookstores.

The more popular e-books become, the more popular other library services are becoming, including hard cover books, which we hadn’t anticipated.

—Anne Marie Aikins

Anne Marie Aikins, manager of community relations for the Toronto Public Library, says books downloaded through the library system went up over 100 per cent last year, but they still are not the top priority.

“Last year over 33 million items were borrowed and less than three per cent were e-books,” Aikins said. “It’s a growing market and it will continue to grow as more books become available. But not all books come out in e-book format and those that do may not be available to libraries.”

Aikins said the library is experiencing something very unusual when it comes to e-books.

“The more popular e-books become, the more popular other library services are becoming, including hard cover books, which we hadn’t anticipated.”

Some bookstores are also finding they have to change their business to make up for revenue lost to e-books. For example, Chapters-Indigo has introduced more gifts and home accessories to their stores.

For used bookstores, this hasn’t become a viable option. Katya Nosko at The Great Escape, a used bookstore on Kingston Road, says she hasn’t noticed any impact from the e-reader at her store.

“[The store] has seen no discernible change in our sales because of the ereader,” Nosko said. “In fact, we may be doing better because true book people feel at home here and their choices to go elsewhere are diminishing.”

Self-proclaimed book people have different experiences when shopping for books.

For them it is not just about picking up a book to read, it’s more than that.

“The store is as much a destination for adventure as it is a place to pick up a good read,” Nosko said. “People often comment on the pleasant smell of old books and the fun of searching through the stacks.”

So whether you prefer reading from a page or reading off a screen, books will always be around as a method of storytelling.

Aikins likens the evolution of books to another form of entertainment, the home movie.

“While the format of video has changed over the years from DVD to blu-ray, movies are still popular and we believe the same thing will continue with books,” she said.