I spent my early years on a farm and in a small town in southwestern Saskatchewan. Most families in that area had very few books, and even the school had very few books other than the textbooks we used. In high school we bought most of our text books, usually from older students.
Our small school did not have a library. However, each month or two each class received a box of 'supplementary reading books' sent by the Saskatchewan Department of Education in Regina. Opening the box was an exciting experience for us. We would pick the books that we wanted and then put our names on lists for the other books.
I discovered novels by Enid Blyton when I was in Grade Five. Her books, including The Island of Adventure and The Castle of Adventure, were also very popular with my fellow students. Each of us wanted to get her books first from the book boxes or to be high on the list. We waited patiently for our chance to read these and other books.
Books were rare and precious objects in that small town. We read every book that we could find.
That small town is far smaller than it was when I left there forty-six years ago. Nevertheless, they now have a library, located in the Post Office.
Books are now everywhere. One can buy them online, borrow them from libraries, or buy them in small or large bookstores. Last year in the USA 1.2 million books were published, although only 2% of those were printed in quantities of 5,000 or more.
We'll have paper books for some time to come, but the advent of new types of books – interactive, mulitmedia products available electronically – will change the book business significantly. Indeed, changes are already occurring. As energy costs increase the cost of shipping books around the country and around the world will become very high.
New innovative e-books containing audio, video, links and other innovative features will change our concept of what a book is and what it can do. Knowledge will continue to become more accessible to everyone.
The paper book will become a precious object again. Paper books produced in the future will be similar to some books produced today: very high in quality, archival, highly desirable, but at a higher cost.
We'll use electronic products to store most of the knowledge that we have, but some of us will continue to collect fine paper books.
Some of the books we own will become collectible. Don't give your paper books away and don't sell them until you check their value using a source such as Abebooks. You may find that some of them are valuable.
Keep books that you would like to pass on to your family and which have special meaning for you. Read them, enjoy them and conserve them carefully.