Are Cookbooks Dead?

In a digital age, do we really need cookbooks when we can quickly Google a recipe on our phone or tablet? What is it about cookbooks that we like and should we keep them alive?

Personally, I like a cookbook for its little quirks – its little pieces of extra information. I love the aesthetics of a cookbook, strong design and photographs to drool over. It’s an object you can sit and flip through or, if you decide to splash out on some new ingredients, you can actually cook something and it gains another use.

Yes, we can use our phones to quickly Google how to cook a certain ingredient or to grab a quick recipe but there is so much to choose from – sometimes you spend longer scrolling through recipes than actually cooking.

We have a culture with too much choice and therefore, the more niche, the more interesting. This is why I feel cookbooks can live on as long as we keep producing well designed, aesthetically pleasing books that double-up as a pretty object and the occasional guide to cooking. Throw in a (likeable) famous chef and you’re winning.

The market for cookbooks used to be your stereotypical older female who would spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Now, as our generations have changed over the years, creating independent working women, the market has of course changed too. More books have been turning to markets that focus on cheap cooking, fast cooking, 15-minute meals. The digital age has created a fast society. You can have anything at the push of a button – need a taxi?, how about a takeaway? Maybe a last-minute gift that will arrive on your doorstep the next morning? Why are we still buying cookbooks and not just Googling recipes?

Well, people like to read and cook recipes which were created by their favorite chefs or even restaurants, not just some blogger who occasionally likes to whip something up. Although well-known bloggers have had their recipes published. And this says something about print versus digital. As an author, it is far more of an achievement to be published in print than online. This is also why you know that when you buy a cookbook the content has more weight than online, you can trust it. Jamie Oliver knows his stuff and that’s why you buy the books.

Cooking is no longer something that was forced upon women in the early 1900’s, it is now seen as creative, as a craft, as a professional career. It has been turned into a fun and challenging hobby for men and women alike. It has created a whole different way of living for some. Mental health and healthy eating has been a growing trend over the years and now in the current economy, everyone is looking to live cheaply. These factors combined have created markets for books on growing your own veg and herbs, eating well and looking after your mind and your body. This raises the question will it stop being a trend and become a way of life that we all have to adapt to if the economy doesn’t change? Maybe that’s a question for another blog.

Cooking is one trend that will never die out. Whether it’s an expensive hardback cookbook by a Michelin star chef or a stocking filler 15-minute meal recipe book, there will always be an interest and a need for cookbooks.

Yvette Bruce