Books are falling into antiquity, but their return could come as a style item; a look. While this may be inauthentic, the future of the book may depend on its ability to make a reader look cool.
The number of books picked up and read is on the decline. There’s no shortage of good books, but instead a shortage of readers willing to commit to a book when there are more entertaining choices that are easily consumed.
Retro is always in style. Old things are always becoming cool again. Books have fallen by the wayside to more technology-driven entertainment. Consider the vinyl record. What was once a commonplace way to listen to music was transformed into a cornerstone of 2000s hipster culture.
But people don’t really like these old things because they’re better; they’re inconvenient, less functional, less capable, etc. Going retro has no utilitarian value. Vinyl records are more expensive, require additional hardware to even use, and just aren’t as functional. But to some people, such items are a cultivated style--part of both an identity and a look.
Who’s to say that books couldn’t have the same resurgence? Reading has so many benefits, of which all have been heard too many times. It’s common knowledge that letting people know that reading is cognitively and linguistically beneficial is not enough to get people to read. A draw is needed; the reason why they start.
Print books could very well come back in style, just like vinyl, CDs, and the Y2K aesthetic. Getting people to read books again may require books to become style items, looks, and selected indicators of taste or refinement that reflect upon the carrier.
This is an obvious downer because it’s selling out--the worst kind of inauthenticity. Of course, books shouldn't be read solely because they can make readers “cool.” But the “cool” factor is only a selling point. No matter the reason, getting people into reading is a positive. But, the future of books is uncertain; the future of the book may well depend on this potential “coolness”.