15 March 2011


Paper Books: A Thing of the Past?

Are conventional books a dying breed? In this gadget-saturated era, will the nostalgic custom of dusting off hardback covers and turning their musty pages soon be a thing of the past?

To gauge recent press, it would appear that the answer is 'yes'. The publishing industry is struggling, book sales are apparently on the decline and the number of book stores appears to be shrinking; you need only read about the waning of once-mighty chains like Waterstone's (which announced on January 5 that it intends to close 20 stores nationwide) to see that all is not well in Literary Land.

Threats to the publishing industry have been forecast since the introduction of electronic books (or 'ebooks') which allow users to read text on computers and digital devices like the Amazon Kindle or Sony Reader.  

Amazon, the world's largest online bookseller, recently announced that during September 2010 it sold more of its Kindle ebooks than their paper equivalents. That's an impressive feat when you consider that Kindles only arrived on the market three years ago, while conventional books have been sold online five times longer.

It has been predicted that traditional books will be replaced by machines"¦eventually. But this theory never seemed a valid threat because the technology wasn't quite up to scratch. Digital books will never replace the sensory appeal of a tangible book. Reading from a screen can strain the eye and might not be entirely practical outdoors, in the glare of the sun. But many of these minor constraints have been addressed by the manufacturers, and digital reading is now easier than ever.

To consider them practically, digital books are incredibly handy; if you have an ebook device it can be carried anywhere, just as a traditional book - they even turn pages. They're hardy tools, and you can read novels, newspapers, notebooks, brochures and a hefty library of books, all in one dinky, pocket-sized  gizmo.

Business-wise, page flip software can convert your company documents into a book that can be uploaded online and viewed from any webpage, anywhere. All that it requires is an Adobe Flash Player to run in a browser window.

Online travel agency Ola Holidays recently collaborated with Leicestershire design agency FDC to produce 60,000 hard copy summer holiday brochures for 2011. They followed this up with an eye-catching 16-page digital equivalent, which comes in the form of a PDF page flipper and allows users to scan the full document, and zoom in and out. The effect is as if it were a physical document, but at the same time users can take advantage of the electronic benefits like searching, jumping to a certain page and linking to external websites. 

FDC's copywriter, Phil Holdsworth, helped create Ola's digital brochure: "After Nick Prince, our graphic designer, has designed and completed a generic brochure he then passes the PDF over to me. At this point I can upload it into the software and create a flipping book and all areas of its layout can be customised. For example, I can upload a specific image as a background for the webpage that the book sits on and I can also create a table of contents which allows users to navigate easily around the book. I can also implement Google Analytics into the webpage so that we can track how many hits the flipping PDF page has had once it goes live."

Designer, Nick Prince, added: "The obvious benefits are that it is lower in production and distribution costs as well as being more environmentally friendly than a paper brochure."

The move towards digital literature makes sense - economically and environmentally, although they can never compare with the way a traditional book smells and feels. But do they pose a real threat to our paper-loving past? I don't think so. And anyway...can't we have both?

Check out the FDC page flipper for Ola Holidays.


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