Yesterday, on the metro ride home from work, I saw two people one standing in front of me and one beside me and both were reading a physical book. This made me smile.
I have tried reading a book on a Kindle app for my computer. I thought that it was an easy and cheap way to try it out. It took me at least three times longer to read the book on my computer than it would to read a book in print. Why?
Well after spending 8 hours a day on the computer at work, then checking emails and social media after dinner, at the end of the day I want to sit in a comfy chair or in bed and read on paper. My eyes are tired after staring at the glowing screen for 80% of my day. I predict that with all the fads that go around these days, like fashion, diets, and gadgets and along with some of these things always come health problems.
I think eventually there will start to be studies and reports of people suffering from eye problems, back, neck, and even wrist problems from constant computer usage. Ok maybe, I’m going a little bit too far here. But the point is, I think that all these touch-screen items and e-readers will eventually become the next thing that was once exploding and then leveled off.
I truly believe that self-publishing, Amazon and e-readers are changing the world of publishing and how the public consumes books. I think that reading will now become more popular, maybe those kids who thought that it was “geeky” to read a book in their spare time will now proudly pull out the latest e-reader and be in the spotlight of all their friends. Millions of people who weren’t self-proclaimed “readers” and buying e-books by the dozens and filling up their e-readers faster than publishing houses can keep up with or even react to.
I watched the market change over the past year and I know that’s not very long to be following it, but the number of articles, newsletters and blog posts I’ve read on the subject all make it seem like either (A) the printed book is doomed to an untimely death (B) its just a fad that will pass and thus publishing houses don’t have to worry so much.
These are the two most common sides I’ve seen taken and I’m sure there are many others. I have avoided posting a blog on this topic just because its so hot. I also wasn’t exactly sure what I thought of it until I could see what the outcomes might be.
I finally decided to write a passion-fueled post after reading the article, “Frankfurt Book Fair 2011: TOC Keynote Sets Bold Tone” by Andrew Albanese in Publisher’s Weekly.
There were a few points that stood out to me.
1) Bob Stein, innovator in digital publishing, has a current venture called “Social Book” which “aims to turn reading from a solitary pursuit to a networked experience, where readers and authors can read books together, in constant communication, transforming the book from a staid object in the print era, to a live, active place online” (source).
This is a very interesting venture and I’m sure it could be a big hit with the masses, but I also think that some regular readers will stick to the print books. As the first two comments on the article were:
“I want to read a book, not interact with you or the author or the publisher while doing it, I just want to read books.”
“But I LIKE reading as a solitary pursuit!”
So it goes to show that these ladies who were probably always interested in reading will continue to read books the traditional way. Yes, there are readers out there who will embrace ebooks and read only in electronic format, but there there will also be readers who do a bit of both.
But ebooks opens up a whole new medium to the masses. (Wow this reference brings me right back to my comparative literature classes at the University of Alberta. You see Dad I did learn something there). E-books are the new Pulp magazines. Pulp magazines were published from 1896 through to the 1950s and were collectively called Pulp Fiction. They were inexpensive and thus appealed to the masses. E-books are, and should be, cheaper than the printed book. Of course, there is a hefty price tag for some e-readers, but there are also free downloadable applications for e-readers and it may be that the larger up-front investment pays off in the cheaper ebooks in the long run.
2) And on that note, as digital marketing expert, Mitch Joel (author of “Six Pixels of Separation”) said: “Someone has opened up an opportunity to sell anything anywhere, and we’re fighting it? Is this normal?” (source).
My conclusions are:
- The face of publishing has changed with the addition of self-publishing/e-books.
- I don’t think the printed book will disappear.
- I think eventually most publishers will have to deal/manage with e-publishing in most author contracts if not all.
In the end I think the theme of this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair says it spot on “Tools of Change”. The world of publishing and books is changing and everyone knows that some people resist change and others embrace it.
I know I’ve opened up a debate here. What do you think? Are e-books going to diminish print books? Or are they a new (positive) addition into the mix?