Books can appear to be dying out these days. Bookshops have dwindled to a few doughty independent survivors. Bookshelves are not a feature of modern houses. Everything you can read, and more, is available online so why bother with books? Whatever the reason, many still do. In fact, the digital age, as freelance writer Michael Donaldson, explains on our pages today, has encouraged many to publish their own book.
It is quite likely more books are being produced now then ever. They will never be seen in a shop, their existence will probably never be known to more than family and friends of the author. They are certainly not a commercial proposition. They are the product of the human urge to record something thought interesting or important, or simply an experience to be shared, a story worth telling.
It could be told in many ways, and these days it might take the form of a home-made video or a computer file of text. But it seems there is still nothing like a physical book - paper bound between durable covers - to give the story permanence.
It may be an illusion of permanence. If a copy of every book ever published were to survive, all the libraries in the world would probably not contain them. The few books that appear in shops have a shelf life of a few months. The rest may struggle to survive that long. The few copies that reach those specially interested in the subject or the author are likely to be read, filed and forgotten. The most avid book collectors have far more titles than they want to keep.
But none of this will matter to the person or family or business or sports team that simply wants its story recorded for "posterity". The dictionary defines it as descendants, all succeeding generations. A book is a time capsule. The self-publisher fondly imagines the story surviving to be discovered by some dear descendent who blows the dust of the tome, reads it and the past is kept alive.
Self-published books can be well produced. It is probably worth paying to have them professionally written, edited, designed and printed. Sales will barely cover the cost at best , but books like this are a labour of love. The only profit is the pleasure of the book's existence. It is a life, or a slice of life, given coherence and meaning. It is a creation that, no matter how few will ever see it, has a life of its own.