The greatly exaggerated death of the book

I was trading e-mails with the lovely SophieMyst earlier today, and we were discussing many things. Books, characterization in fiction, the unfortunate reality of having handsome and unavailable co-workers … all sorts of things.

But it was the subject of electronic books and independent writing that inspired me to blog today. (I also have a feeling that Sophie might appreciate not being on the receiving end another epic email.) You see, the darling S, like so many other bibliophiles in the past few years, recently purchased a Kindle. She was also party, as others have been, to the inevitable discussion that follows the purchase of an e-reader.

Is this the death of the book? *cue dramatic music*

As someone who loves books, and as someone who is planning on publishing independently in the electronic book market, you can imagine I have some opinions about this topic. I shared some of them with Sophie, but I thought I’d share them with you, as well.

I do think we are seeing the first step in the decline of the mass market paperback, to be frank. The appeal of paperbacks has always been their affordability and portability, both of which are better served by e-readers. Paperbacks have been rising in price for many reasons, and it’s no longer a throw away expense to go buy a paperback when its cover price is over five dollars, and often over seven.

Added to that, more and more people see the appeal of keeping their books in a more portable electronic library, instead of buying bookshelves on a massive scale.

 Typical exchange at the Hunter house:

 Me: We could move the couch over there, and that would leave room for another bookcase!

 Husband: We need another bookcase?

 Me: *sheepish smile*

 (Incidentally, my husband bought me my first Kindle. His back thanks him every day.)

So indie writer/blogger/soon-to-be publisher, do you still buy books on paper?

Yup.

And the reasons are many. Sometimes, I find an older edition I want on my shelves for sentimental value. Sometimes I have the first few books in a series on paper and am compelled to buy the rest to “match.” I just ordered another copy of Eudora Welty’s short stories so I could go through with a pencil and mark it up. (I do that with writers I like so I can examine their dialogue, or point of view, or punctuation or whatever I think makes them absolutely brilliant.)

So do I think books are going to die? Nope, but I do see paper books becoming more of a niche market. The good news? I think this creates a lot of opportunities for independent book stores to take advantage of and expand that niche market in ways that corporate book chains cannot. (Go indie stores!)

It’s a changing world for book lovers, but an exciting one! And I’m thrilled to be a part of it. Do you prefer electronic books, or paper ones? What might make you choose to buy a paper book over an electronic one if you do have an e-reader? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for reading,

E

Posted in Random, Writing.

6 Comments

  1. I read several books online, FF of course, but others as well. I read all of Charlaine’s books online and then turned around and bought every single copy at Borders. Why? Because I LOVE holding a book, turning the pages, reading print on paper vs. print on a screen. There is just something different about it. Plus, bookshelves are beautiful, and some of the best home decor money can buy.

    Another thing to think about are kids. Everything for them is online, TV, touch screen, fancy phones, video games, etc. I would hate to think that kids would completely miss out on book reading. Regardless if they are still reading online, it really isn’t the same thing.

    I am getting an Ipad, have Kindle’s online version, will continue to read online, and most importantly will still buy books.

    Great topic!

    • Thanks Dee! And you bring up a great point about kids reading. No doubt, I still insist on the SmallBoy reading regular old paper books. One, because I buy a lot of used books for him to read, and two, because I just like the idea of him “unplugging” from all the technology that surrounds him.

      Hope you enjoy your iPad! I have graduated to that from my Kindle and I absolutely love it! 🙂

      E

  2. I LOVE LOVE LOVE books, always have, always will. I find that if I love the book I’ll buy it on paper, regardless of the fact that I have it on my computer. Some books are still not available in e-format so I have no choice there, but some I’ve read online and bought on paper just because I could.
    When I first left school and started working, most of my pay cheque went on new books, I’d read so fast that I’d pretty much get a new one every day, and I LOVED it.
    I have a Kobo – which has been summarily swiped by hubby – and it’s pretty awesome. I love the texture on the back, I love that it’s light and that it fits in my bag. Kobos seem to handle more file types, and they don’t have extra things like a keyboard incorporated into it, which means it has a bigger screen. The only thing I don’t like is that the button to move around makes a clicking sound, easy to ignore during the day, but extremely loud late at night.
    I love the portability of e-books, I love that I can lend/send them to someone and not have to replace my book 2 months later because it got lost or whatever other reason. I love that I can lie in bed and read without marking up my walls or whacking myself in the face with it when my arms get tired, I also love that I can change the print size! Sometimes when I’m tired or have a headache I just can’t handle small print – so being able to resize is awesome.
    That said – I’m always going to buy paper books as well. I have 3 decent sized book cases, one is double stacked, and i still have books in boxes.
    I don’t think that ebooks herald the end of the paperback – there are die hard book lovers out there who’ll buy on paper regardless of electronic options – I think they’re just a cheaper way to find out what you do and don’t like to read.

    • Great point about “trying out” authors, Sarah. I find that I do that, as well. I might buy an electronic version of a book and then, if I like the author, I’m more inclined to buy them on paper.

      I still think we’re going to see a big drop in mass market paperback sales, though. The growth of the electronic book market is going to appeal to a lot of readers, particularly as the population ages and young people become more of a driving market force. Hopefully, this means that more and more people, in general, will be reading and enjoying books of all forms.

      That said, books have existed in paper and parchment form for centuries, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. 😉

      Thanks for the interesting international perspective on the e-book market! I currently plan on publishing with Smashwords, in part because they offer such a variety of file formats for my international readers. I’d love to hear from more internation readers about where they buy e-books! (hint, hint, international readers …)

      Thanks for commenting!

      E

  3. There is also the used book option…quite possibly environmentally sounder. I wonder how that plays out: shipping vs. electronics?

    • It’s an excellent question, Toni, though I have no doubt that for new books, electronic is much more environmentally friendly. Seastarr wrote a post awhile back mentioning the astounding number of paperbacks that go into landfills every year. 🙁

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