Friday, April 8, 2011

The Times, They Are a-Changin' – Ebooks and Traditional Books

The Internet has been buzzing for some time trying to predict whether ebooks will be the end of traditional publishing or just a flash in the pan. In such exchanges there are always the converts and the "you'll have to take my print book out of my cold dead hands" faction. But in the end, the truth is that publishing is changing. As almost everything in the world eventually changes (let's face it, even the earth doesn't stand still. Mountains rise and fall, coastlines recede and lakes dry up).

That said, I don't think print books are going anywhere. There just may not be as many of them printed as there were in the past (meaning smaller print runs per book, not fewer books purchased). Of course, that's just pure speculation, but it's obvious that ebook sales will have some sort of effect on the market now that they're becoming more mainstream.

Still, I do worry about the demise of brick and mortar bookstores. We all know that Borders is in serious trouble (hopefully they're making changes that will win them converts), Barnes & Noble have had their difficulties (again, hopefully the Nook has brought them business) and just last week I saw that a local used book store that had been in business for almost 40 years was closing its doors due to a dwindling customer base.

I'd hate to see that happen (although again, maybe that change is coming. When Borders and Barnes & Noble came to town, many indy bookstores had to close). We'll see how all that plays out. are my thoughts regarding ebooks (yes, I do have a Kindle) and print books.

E-book Readers

n      Can hold an entire library (good for people with limited space  and people with dust allergies)

n      Is good for travel

n      You can read one-handed (who knew this would be a plus?)

n      Adjustable font sizes for ailing eyes

n      Doesn't kill any trees (although it may have some other type of environmental impact as people discard old models for new ones)

n      No one knows what you're reading so you can reread a book without anyone questioning your choice

n      No waste in terms of bookstores tearing off covers for return and recycling the rest (or worse, tossing them in the garbage)

n      Eventually, there may a wider choice of types of books available than there are in paper (publishers don't like to buy a book that won't sell to a very large audience, because printing and distributing one isn't cost effective. With an ebook, however, that's no longer an issue).

n      Instant access to a dictionary if you run across a word you don't know

Print Books

n      Covers (once you have an ebook, there's no pretty cover to look at)

n      The scent (there's just something about the smell of paper and ink)

n      Conversation starters when people notice what you're reading

n      Good for collectors

n      Can be easily shared or resold

n      It never needs charging

n      You can read in the tub or at the beach if that's your preference

n      No matter how good an ipad is, I can't see it replacing a big book with lots of glossy graphics. Paper still rules in this respect, IMO.

So, there are pros and cons to both. One other pro I've found with the e-reader is I tend not to stockpile too many books because I know that I can buy my next one with a few clicks. In other words, my TBR pile is still at the store.

But I do still buy and read paper books, I still enjoy it and I can't see completely going to an ebook format.  I'm hoping that there will be room for everyone at the table and that in the end, this new technology will be a good thing for the industry as a whole.

So…what are your views on ebooks? Interested? Not interested?  Or are you in the "wait and see" camp?

Either way, Happy Reading!


Mary Preston said...

I have a Kindle but it's still more of a novelty. My daughter uses it quite a bit, but that could be very much generational. Nothing will ever replace a hard copy I don't think.

Colleen said...

I still prefer print books, but I am amazed at how many e-books I already have... the e-reader is easier for travel, but at home I want to curl up in my fav spot and enjoy a print book in hand.

Myrna Mackenzie said...

Mary and Colleen, it sounds as if we agree. It's nice to have an e-reader, but it can't replace a book. I do like having a choice, though. Plus, I'm away from my desk now and typing this on my Kindle...which is why I'm keeping this message short (that little keyboard is so small)! Have a great day!

Virginia C said...

I understand the importance of e-books and electronic publishing to the literary world, but I am a lifelong print book person. I love my books from cover to cover and everything in-between. I don’t own an e-reader, but I do read e-books on my PC. I have been through a lot of career ups and downs. I lost my job over a year ago, and I am still unemployed. I live in a very small town with few job opportunities. I would love to be employed in a position which allowed me to promote literacy and put books in the hands of everyone who wants to read. We live in a PC and internet fueled world, but there are still many people in the United States struggling with literacy. That’s why print books, newspapers, magazines and etc. are so vitally important. Not everyone is PC literate or has access to a computer or internet. Not everyone uses a cell phone, much less owns a multi-tasking “omni” cell phone! I started off in life as a bookworm, and the more complicated life became, the less time I had to read. The last few years, I have turned to books for comfort and to return to my roots. I think it is especially important for girls and women to have healthy self-esteem. Improving their reading skills opens up the world, enables informed decision making, and brings them all kinds of new opportunities.

Myrna Mackenzie said...

Virginia, I agree wholeheartedly with everything you've said. We need to make sure that books are available for all. I've worried about how e-books will change all of this, but recently I've realized that many authors who are offering their work in an ebook format are also publishing a print edition. Many times those are expensive, but Amazon's CreateSpace (I think that's what it's called) is much more reasonable (I've seen books list for $4.99), which means that, eventually, those books will show up in second hand versions at used book stores, church rummage sales and such, making them affordable for everyone. I'm not sure if libraries will agree to carry them. Maybe eventually...but at any rate, I don't think libraries or print books will become dinosaurs. We'll still need and want them.