Will the Internet Make Cookbooks Obsolete?

5 years ago

Though I have cut down on the number of cookbooks I own, I still have several shelves in my quite-small apartment dedicated to printed tomes on cooking. Whether it's staples like The Joy of Cooking or How To Cook Everything, or special books that were gifted to me, like Cooking New Istanbul Style or The Ex-Boyfriend Cookbook, I treasure being able to flip through the pages to recipes I've tried before or want to try later.

An article in Publisher's Weekly this past summer talked about the relationship between the web and the printed cookbook. As more food bloggers make the leap to publishing cookbooks, their blogs can serve as a marketing platform for the printed product, rather than an alternative to the hard-copy book.

The New York Times examined the issue of cooking via the iPad or other tablet computer this week, and while that's a slightly different approach than just searching for recipes on the web, it's yet another way cooks are being pulled from their beloved cookbooks and moved toward a different way to find and use recipes.

Though I will admit to spending an inordinate amount of time (both in my role as BlogHer's Food editor, as well as in my personal cooking life) searching the web for recipes or using my iPad to walk myself through an unfamiliar dish, I wonder whether the Internet has the power to eliminate the printed word when it comes to food. Cooks feel powerful connections to what gets them from ingredients to finished dish, whether that's their favorite spoon, their beloved chef's knife, or the cookbook passed down to them by their grandmother. I'm pretty sure it's impossible to develop that same passionate relationship with a bookmarked web page.

Foodycat began thinking about the issue admits she falls squarely on the side of loving cookbooks. She's exclamatorily passionate about the issue, but attempted to develop a cogent argument as to why she loves her bound recipe collection far more than what she can find on the Internet:

I don't know what the average number of cookbooks is that the average family owns, but I am quite happy to go out on a limb and say we have several more than that. If I had a less-good memory for food and recipes, I might be more keen on an electronic filing system but as it is I know my library well enough to know where to find recipes I want pretty quickly without dependence on sometimes-obscure internet search terms.

The search engine issue is a real one for Caroline Fraissinet of Helium. It's the huge number of less-than-organized recipes, she says, that make it hard to actually find what one is looking for:

Many a time have I searched for a recipe only having the vague idea that I wanted to use a particular ingredient and have found it difficult to find the recipe that I want because the internet is a database of every possible piece of information that exists. Quite simply, getting a recipe online can be downright overwhelming!

On examiner.com, Michelle Kerns explains why she, too, will not give up her cookbooks:

I read cookbooks like I read novels—I start with the first page and read through every line until I reach the end. And I'll be honest, I've read a hell of a lot of cookbooks that made for better reading than plenty of novels, hands down. It's no wonder that some of these cookbooks end up attracting a cult following like the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or Harry Potter or Twilight series.

Here are some more thoughts on the issue of whether the Internet is making cookbooks irrelevant or not:

Do you generally cook from recipes off the Internet, or from your treasured cookbook collection? Do you think the Internet will eventually make the printed cookbook obsolete? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Genie blogs about gardening and food at The Inadvertent Gardener, and tells very short tales at 100 Proof Stories. She is also the Food Section Editor for BlogHer.

Image Credit: Image by yortw on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.

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