Books – Their Role in the Past and Fate in the Future

Library

The written word is without a doubt one of the greatest achievements of mankind. It did not only left behind a valuable source of information about the distant past but it also helped spread the knowledge and conserve the art of writing we know today as literature. From the very invention of papyrus and parchment that enabled the creation of books as we know today, the “art of reading“ was closely associated with power and influence as it provided a unique access to knowledge. With the widespread of telecommunication media such as radio, television and Internet in the recent years, the importance of books seems to have declined and many people fear that books may completely disappear in the future. Can they really? Absolutely not. Let’s see why.

Our ancestors felt the need to write down only the most important information due to the fact that parchment (made of calfskin, goatskin or sheepskin) that was the most commonly used writing material until the widespread of paper was very expensive. In addition, reproduction of books was extremely slow as each copy had to be rewritten by hand until the invention of the printing press in the later Middle Ages. Books were therefore highly priced items owned by very few people, while libraries were not open to the general public like today, at least not their entire collections.

How powerful were books already in antiquity clearly reveal intentional destructions of books and copies that did not fit into the existing moral, religious or political views. In fact, the secular or religious authorities who ordered the destruction of books perceived as dissenting or heretical feared that they could pose a threat to the prevailing order. What is more, the intentional destructions of books - usually in the form of public burnings occasionally took place as late as the 20th century.

The power of books did not lay only in their direct influence on public opinion concerning moral, political or religious point of view. Literary works which either entertain and enlighten their readers were as popular in the past (if not even more so) as today when it has become completely normal to watch a movie and not read the book on which it was based, for instance. On the other hand, most people who read a book and then see the movie say that the book was much better. But this is not the only reason why there is no way for the books to become “extinct“ in the future.

The most respected scholars and scientists continue to share their knowledge through books and as long as they will continue to do so, books will always have their readers. The same counts for literary works which continue to surprise, entertain, shock, relax and enlighten their readers. What is more, they tend to inspire other media and art forms, and even science. Many science fiction technologies have become reality and many more may become in the future as well just because fictional advances inspired one “crazy“ scientist.