The future of books

World Book Day is around the corner and it is a wonderful time for schoolchildren to dress up and pay homage to their favourite novels and authors.  Patrick Wenham, Headmaster at Bickley Park School, shares his thoughts on the future of books.

As a school, we are very proud of our history and are privileged to be able to say that the prominent children’s author Enid Blyton taught here in 1919.  Blyton – whose books have sold 600 million copies and counting - has been one of the world’s best-sellers. She brought the adventures of the Famous Five and Noddy into our homes, hands, and hearts.

But with the rise of smart phones and tablets, are we looking at the slow death of printed publications? Is technology going to leave dog-eared pages and bookmarks totally shelved?  In our lifetimes we possibly won’t see the end of the printed word, but we will see certain mediums begin to disappear due to lack of profitability as more people embrace online reading.

Some people cite that they couldn’t give up the touch of a book as there’s something about the physical act of page turning (and the smell of the paper!) which forms part of the relationship with reading.  These associations possibly stem back to our childhood where we were read to in class and spent intimate time snuggled-up sharing stories with parents and family members.


We can’t ignore that e-books have surged in popularity since the Kindle was launched in 2007 and will continue to rise in the future, while sales are rising, we are seeing a rapid decline in sales of other printed publications, like newspapers and magazines.

But without hardcopies, where would this leave libraries in the future? These lending and reading rooms have actually been resourceful for many years now in order to avoid becoming as extinct as some of the animals in their reference books.  Libraries have had to expand their market and move with the times with the addition of audiobooks, DVDs and internet access points.

But, as with the recent rise in people going ‘retro’ and reverting to vinyl, it could be argued that, at some point, we will see a surge in paperbacks again, despite environmental impact of printing hardcopies. 

However, when it comes to physical books, the news is encouraging.  Last year, sales of real books outperformed digital titles.

The French novelist Marcel Proust famously said:

“There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favourite book."

If we keep placing printed words into the hands of our children, alongside electronic devices, then they will develop a love for both in the future.  So let’s keep feeding our children’s imagination and celebrate reading in all its forms.