“Books will always have their place, particularly books of relevance. Obviously the popular novels and romances might disappear, but there’s something about books as an art form, certainly the earlier books,” Strauss and Co Fine Art Auctioneers and Consultants managing director Stephan Welz told CNBC Africa on Tuesday.
A rare or old book edition can attract substantial attention and can be financially rewarding if treated as an investment.
“The first thing is decide what field you want to collect in, and obviously collect in a field that you are familiar with. If you’re mad about cricket, collect cricket. If you’re a botanist, it will be botany. Often people say ‘I want to collect the Boer War’, well they’re probably 50,000 books you can collect somehow related to the Boer War,” Welz explained.
“Get yourself a nice niche in the market place rather than a broad sense. It’s not always the contents, it’s the bindings that people collect or authors or first editions.”
The advent of the electronic book and its popularity has however changed the entire dynamic of book selling, purchasing and collecting. While some are proponents of the digital version of books, others prefer the physical book because of its aesthetic and tangible value.
Investing in rare or old books can also be significantly important in preserving historical records, which cannot necessarily be transformed into an electronic version or reprinted.
“There’s nothing like holding an old book in your hand. In this new and electronic age we have eBooks, you don’t have that feel of the book, the musky history,” said Scott Balson from the Balson Holdings Family Trust.
“My concern is that everything seems to be going to this electronic age. The problem with that is if for some reason the internet implodes and doesn’t work anymore, and computers become outdated, you’ve lost touch if you don’t keep the real asset, which are physical books.”