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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

Technology revolutionises literary universe

Literature is one of humankind’s greatest creations. There is something calming about sitting down after a long day and opening a book, about learning something new and broadening our intellectual horizons. There is something exhilarating about either creating or consuming the concepts and ideas of new worlds, ones brought to vivid life through the imagination of the minds around us and/or inside us. A world crafted from paper and ink, the literary universe has been feeling the impact of technologies and machinery since the time that we typed up novels on digital devices and sent them to be printed in bulk in warehouses of famous publishing houses. But the core of literature has remained traditional, authentic to its very roots. The one thing that has remained constant is that books are books…paper and ink, hardcover or paperback. And now, technology is entirely and truly revolutionising the literary universe through digitising books.

So, is this a negative or a positive for the literary world? What happens next? While literature was the beginning of paper and ink storytelling, the art form of storytelling itself existed long before. And when we began to turn trees into paper, a whole new realm of possibilities was unleashed. From sci-fi books to novels about the human spirit – and everything in between – there was suddenly quite literally a whole world of literary genius to read through. And that world is ever-expanding, even today, on the verge of a world that is exceedingly more digitally-focused. Everyone loves a good story. And there is nothing quite like sitting down with a good book. And yet, as the world edges into a new age where technology takes precedence, we are seeing the literary universe shift, pivoting on its axis.

Of course, this is not to say that the literary world is doomed, but rather that it is changing, shifting to realign with the way the world is moving – not unlike every other industry these days. Through technological advancement, we are seeing the beginning of the modernisation of a historically traditional concept. And this is frightening for many. The uncertainty of the future of the good old paper-and-ink physical book is something that has shocked and saddened many. While we are wanting to become more environmentally conscious as a species, books seem to be one of the things that we are having the hardest time letting go of. But here is the thing. Traditional books are wonderful, and they are not going anywhere. Sure, they may not be printed as excessively anymore, as more people shift over to digital devices like Kindles and digital textbooks to get their reading from.

But there still is –and will likely always be – a demographic that loves the feel of a good book, and not the weightlessness of a Kindle, in their hands. The market for traditional books is not necessarily in decline, but instead it is realigning, edging towards straddling the delicate balance between traditional and modern forms of literature. While it will of course present a bit of a balancing act in the beginning, it is more than likely that over time, this will re-centre. While technology has had an active hand in breaking down boundaries and releasing the obscure, it has also caused a shift in how we think, react, and interact with the world and objects around us. The way that we consume literature has changed fundamentally. Literature is such a significant part of society. It has been since books were first introduced all those decades ago. And the importance of keeping the world alive is brighter than ever.

For as long as we have existed on this planet and we have used the trunks of trees to produce paper, literature has been an art form. And even before then, stories were told through words and actions, and people adored them, cherished them, even loved them. Today, we are seeing the rise of technological impact in the literature landscape in the form of digitising the stories themselves. Having books be readily available both on paper and through screens is literature’s boldest and smartest move ever. In a world where alliances with environmental impacts like the use of paper to create traditional physical books are shifting all the time, having hands in both traditional and modern pies is the best approach to ensuring longevity and continued reader loyalties.

No longer solely available in the physical form of paper and ink bound together with glue and covered with beautiful cover pages and backings, people consume literature through the screens of their digital devices as well. While this modernisation of a historically traditional concept can be perceived as threatening to the physical books millions know and love, the art form of literature will continue to live on as long as there is a market of people who love the smell of cracking open a new book, the feeling of gripping the pages tight during a suspenseful moment in the story, and the thrill of adding a new book to the personal library. There is room for both the traditional and the modern here.


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