Dubai: If you’re a book lover, an author or both, you have probably pondered whether books are dying out as a result of technological advances such as the Kindle, iPad and smartphones.
In light of World Book Day on Wednesday Gulf News spoke to publishers, authors and book lovers to find out if they think books are still in demand or if they have been replaced by their electronic counterparts.
April 23 marks the birth and deaths of great poets and authors such as Shakespeare Maurice Druon and Haldor K.Laxness, and has been celebrated worldwide since 1955.
Unesco’s General Conference launched World Book Day to pay tribute to books and authors to encourage everyone, especially young people, to discover the pleasure of reading.
Tamara Junaid, a 20-year-old Yemeni student studying at the American University of Sharjah, who has read around 80 books in her lifetime, said she would never read an e-book.
“I believe that the e-book takes away from the reading experiences that a book gives you. To me flipping the page and eventually placing it on a shelf after I am done is part of the joy of reading.”
Although statistics about preferred reading mediums are not available in the UAE, the latest numbers from the Association of American Publishers found that hardcover book sales in the US are up over ten per cent through the first eight months of 2013. At the same time, adult e-book sales are only up 4.8 per cent.
Salma Yassen, an 18-year-old Palestinian school student, who reads around three books a month said it doesn’t matter what medium people use as long as they actually read. “No one from my generation reads. My friends call me a nerd because I like reading books for fun. I feel that it is an Arab thing, we don’t have the culture of reading.”
According to the Arab Thought Foundation’s fourth annual cultural development report, which was published in 2012, an average Arab child reads “six minutes” a year in comparison to 12,000 minutes its Western counterpart spends.
It also reported that an Arab person on average reads a quarter of a page a year compared with 11 books read by an American and seven books by a Briton.
Tony Mulliken, chairman of publishing PR company, Midas, who also works at the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival, believes that physical books and e-books exist in harmony.
He said there is solid proof that physical books are not dead by referring to the $50 million (Dh183.6 million) made from book sales at the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival last year.
“I believe that there is a balance between the two. For example if they are travelling it might be more convenient to have an e-book. Many people would read an e-book then purchase the physical book to add it to their personal library,” he said.
Mona Al Hassan, a Bahraini author of 16 cookery books, said people are still buying books.
“All my copies are sold when I go to exhibitions. I think that people trust published books more than the internet when it comes to following recipes.”