Monday, June 21, 2010

The End of the (Paper Books) World as we Know It?

Hello, readers.

My morsel for this week? A bold prediction.

Here we are, three months after the big iPad launch, and I'd just like to put my cards on the table about ebooks and book-books and the future of the biz.

Here are my cards:

I bet real-life books aren't going anywhere.

That's right. I said that real paper books are here to stay, that ebooks, while certainly part of the industry, will never be the industry.

I know this cuts against the normal aura of unpredictability offered up at most publishing-related blogs. The usual spiel goes something like this:

"The iPad and the like will revolutionize publishing, and after so many years, who knows if paper books will even exist anymore?"

I know. They will.

How can I make such a bold declaration? What makes me think I know?

I have many reasons, but they really boil down to one. And that reason is this:

Real books aren't computers.

All the real book really needs to insure its continued existence is that it not start acting like a computer anytime soon. Many people who prefer real books (by some estimates 97% of the book-buying population) don't want to look at a computer for another stretch of time in their day. I look at a computer for (at least) eight hours a day, and one of the reasons I love reading books is that I'm not looking at something with a distinct computer-y essence.

In other words, digital will always be digital, with all the upside and downside that entails.

Think of bowling.

We can play bowling games on the computer, even to the point where one mimics the physical language of bowling in one's living room. But all of that can't replace getting into your car, driving to the bowling alley, renting some shoes, picking out a ball and giving it a go. It's a different experience--some might say better, but definitely different--with its own advantages and disadvantages.

As long as digital is digital (and I don't think there's any threat of digital not being digital any time soon), real books will always have a place in this world.

I will be taking next week off this blog, but get ready for a semi-big announcement (at least for me) in the early part of July.

Enjoy your summer. Second half of 2010, coming up.

Yours in laying down the law,


Try Ghost Notes, the award-winning novel, in print form for just $5.

Try Ghost Notes the Audio Book as an unabridged digital download.

Or try Ghost Notes the Ebook.


Celia Hayes said...

Yep - I spend hours , sitting in a chair and looking at a computer screen. Reading a novel on a computer or a reading device still feels too much like 'work'. Opening up a print book is 'leisure'... except when I am reading it for a review, in which case it usually feels a little like 'work', or something like a school book report.

BrennaLyons said...

While I read for pleasure on a computer (and in print, as well), that's not the point of what I'm about to write. People who hate ebooks will always hate ebooks, most likely. And they are welcome to that dislike, long may it live. Grinning... Personal tastes are what they are, and everyone has them.

ANYONE that says ebooks are going to completely replace print books isn't thinking straight. I spent three years as president of EPIC (Electronically Published Internet Connection) and (so far) four years on the BoD over there. Anyone spouting that ebooks are meant to be the death of print is reactionary and is understating the appeal of a paper book.

Even when/if we end up in a situation that makes paper outrageously expensive, some readers will collect, archive, or demand for extravegance to own paper books. eBooks are not meant to replace paper. They are meant to offer options for those that want or need ebooks. They offer less clutter around the house, backups in case of catastrophe, easier travel with large amounts of information/leisure material, text to speech and increasing font size for vision impaired readers, and so forth.

What DO I think will happen? eBooks will take a MORE even share of the market, over time. And POD will change the print market to a different print market.

How? The offset print system with stripping and/or returns is a broken system and has been for some time. POD, especially machines like the Espresso, have the ability to change how books are printed, shipped, the amount of waste, to do away with the royatlties held against returns, and so forth. And eventually, I think that has to happen.

It's not the death of print. It's a whole new way to SAVE the print market that is struggling.


BrennaLyons said...

One other comment about your post...

No, Wii bowling doesn't compare to "real" bowling, but the contents of a book is the same whether you read it on a computer or on paper. It's still a "real book."

"A book is a book, no matter the format." (Karen Woods, owner of Sleeping Beagle)

It's your own bias to make it different. If you are into reading for the feel of the paper, it matters to you, and you lose something in reading on a computer. If you are into reading for being lost in the story, how it comes to you doesn't matter as much (save cases where someone finds a certain type of screen hard on the eyes or some other similar concern). That's MY bias/opinion, and I admit it. I love the worlds and characters, and to be honest, my allergies have never much cared for paper dust. While I like the way a book feels in the hands, I really can take or leave paper.

Not to mention one more connection I can make. As you get older, you may not be able to heft the 8 or 9 lb bowling ball anymore; your back or shoulder may not allow you to make the throw, but you can still enjoy bowling with the Wiimote in hand.


David said...

Interesting topic.

I work in music and people said the same thing about music. "I love the artwork a vinyl record has!" was a common comment.

These people are dying (literally) though. A new population of music lovers is coming in. And those folks like to download music.

Not agreeing or disagreeing with your thoughts, but what people want now might not always be what they want...

Art Edwards said...

I agree that paper books are not a growth industry (and the trees will thank us for it).

My argument is, paper books are not going anywhere specifically because they're not computers. I think when people talk of liking the paper, what they really mean is they like it better than digital which, as Celia says, can feel like work.

BrennaLyons said...

Yes, but it can also feel like enjoyment, if that's your mindset. As I said, ebooks aren't for everyone, but they DO appeal to many people. For people who haven't been using computers for enjoyment for decades, the idea of computers for fun may not compute (pun intended), but some of us have been dealing with electronics for more than work for the last 20+ years...and as David hinted at, our own children have been raised with it.

I didn't touch my first computer until I was nine or so and was taught to code on punch cards. I was using them regularly at 14...the newer desktop Macs, and I owned my first computer at about 19. I have pictures of my kids manipulating the computer at less than a year old, and we currently have four computers in our home...two are mine, one for my husband, and one the kids share.

My oldest was gifted her first ebook reader (an eBookwise unit) when she was 11, almost 5 years ago now. Has she abandoned paper books? Not a chance. For her 15th birthday, her father bought her two hand-crafted bookshelves for her room, and I purchased her upwards of a dozen new paper books to add to her some for her handheld.