Is the book dead?

- August 17th, 2012

I’ve been reading some articles about the future of the printed word.

One interesting argument is that e-readers are proof that the book will live. Every e-reader tries to mimic the book. Everything from the way the text is displayed to how you turn a page, to how your bookshelf looks, etc. The pro-book people argue this is proof that readers still prefer books. But e-readers offer some more convenience.

Another argument is that e-reader designers have added so many features, like sharing passages with your friends, dictionaries, notes in the margin, etc., because they know people would still rather read a real book.

They’re interesting arguments. Do I think the book will go the way of the album or the cassette? No. But when you look at the number of digital book sales, I don’t think e-readers are just a fad. We’re way beyond that point.

It will be interesting to see what value-adds publishers attach to e-editions. For example, let’s say an e-book edition contains pictures and live links, perhaps all these new features nudge up the price of the e-book. And perhaps you, dear reader, don’t want all the extras. So what do you do? Buy the plain old book.

It’s what we have in the DVD world for certain movies. A blockbuster will come out on DVD and there will be two editions. There’s the box edition with extras like interviews, behind-the-scenes material and so on. But there’s a price to pay for that. So some people opt to just pay for the basic DVD, assuming the studio has given the consumer that option. So what’s to say that wouldn’t happen in the world of books? Except instead of buying the basic e-edition of the book, you also have the option of buying the physical book.

Ultimately, we’re not sure where the book industry is going. We know digital sales are cutting into physical sales. But it’s still too early to say one format is on the way out.

Categories: Books

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