At a time when everything is pivoting toward the virtualscape, thanks to the world’s encompassing embrace of the ever more inclusive smartphone, the venerable paper-and-ink book finds itself at a crossroads.

For what use is a book in hand when you can virtually have the world at your fingertips via the virtualscape? As it turns out, in fact, a book has many things for the reader that online sources would never be able to provide.

Take, for instance, availability. A book is available to you every minute of the 24 hours of the day, no matter that it sits on your bookshelf most of the time. An eBook or a PDF, on the hand, could be unavailable if the site hosting it is experiencing an outage or if your device is suffering connectivity issues. Or if you simply forgot to charge your device.

Or take convenience. But, wait, isn’t a smartphone (or any smart-device for that matter) the very embodiment of convenience? True—but can you read through a paragraph without swiping or scrolling? Fast readers, in fact, can speed-read a reasonably short paragraph at one glance, a feat that’s impossible to do on a smartphone, given its limited screen space.

Or take cost. After purchase, a book provides information at absolutely zero cost. A book online or on a device, on the other hand, always exacts some cost. It’s a tiny amount to be sure: Using an iPhone or an Android and assuming five days to finish reading a book at the current P8.55 per kilowatt-hour power rate, the total power cost is just P0.25. But the catch is the wear and tear on your device battery, which is expensive to start with. A paper-and-ink book has no battery to wear down even after decades of use.

Then there’s that most unquantifiable quantity—feel. All inveterate book lovers will tell you that there’s nothing like the feeling of cracking open a book and thumbing through its pages, enjoying the book’s weight, especially if it’s a coffee-table book, and reveling in the scent of paper pulp and printer’s ink.

No iPad or Android tablet can give you the same experience. A book’s feel simply has no analog in the digital world. And after all the reading’s done, you can hand down a book to a loved one as a memento. Just try doing that with a PDF.

“Two decades ago, movie DVDs and Blu-rays were supposed to sound the death knell for movie theaters, but the latter are thriving even now,” pointed out Ramoncito Ocampo Cruz, the president and CEO of Media Wise Communications/ Muse Books, an award-winning publication house.

“Online news was supposed to doom newspapers in quick order. But the broadsheets and tabloids are very much still around. It’s the same thing with books. The book is simply here to stay.”


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