Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Is The Paper Book Going by the Wayside?

Hello From the Heart readers. Today I welcome guest blogger Eddie Jones, Pencil Box Crew member and one of Diana's authors. He recently blogged in response to the question permeating the industry, Is the publishing industry in a state of demise as we know it?

The obituary of the paper book continues to draw interest but before we bury the printed word let's consider the hype and obstacles of digital delivery.

Last week at the International Coach Federation conference in Orlando Florida I watched as hundreds of attendees waited in line to have books signed by key-note speakers and conference faculty. Where do you put the author’s autograph on an e-book and does a hand written note from Sarah Palin mean as much in a Kindle as it does in a hardback?

Today I waited in line at Borders to purchase an Eagles DVD. Yes, I could have grabbed a boot-leg copy online but I value Glen, Joe and Don’s music so I was willing to pay them for their art. However, most of the customers in line cradled books. Several in fact. I checked and almost all were being bought as gift. How do you give the latest Pat Conroy novel as an e-book? Where does the bow, go?

My wife doesn’t buy books. She borrows them from the library. When publishers convert to e-books will libraries offer digital downloads and if so, how? Will my wife have to take her e-reader to the library to check out the book or will she download it from the library’s web site?

The evolving nature of consumer electronics and growing influence of the web drive expectations to dizzying heights. Disposable media, like the newspapers and magazines that end up in the recycle bucket, will migrate to the e-reader platform. Such products are ideal for e-readers. Text books, too.

But fiction and non-fiction books live beyond their publication date. Readers “participate” in a book. They paint their own scenes, adding the furniture of their lives to make the story their own. They pause mid-act to nap, exit the subway or board a plane. With non-fiction they highlight, underline and dog-ear pages for reference. E-books cluttered with hyperlinks, ads, video and sound do not enhance the reading experience. They detract from it.

Consider the browser wars that have plagued the web since its birth. Will publishers spend money to create multiple versions of its product in order to reach all types of e-readers? Or will they pick a winner and hope for the best. Few know the brand of the printing press that publishes the morning paper, but with e-publications technology will trump content.

From 1997 to 2001 the World Wide Web went from a fringe concept (prior to 1996 most companies didn’t even have a web site) to the dominant fixture in our culture. In four years the web revolutionized the media, (AOL purchased Time Warner), the recording industry, (Napster provided easy, free and illegal access to music) and the way we get our news and stay in touch. (You’ve got mail!)

Amazon released their first Kindle in November 19, 2007. Citi analyst Mark Mahaney estimates that Amazon sold 500,000 of its first e-reader. Amazon predicts it will sell 800,000 by the end of this year. In contrast, Sarah Palin's memoir, released this fall, has sold 1 million copies and HarperCollins plans to increase the print run to 2.8 million copies. That’s one book using old technology that doesn't require batteries, specialized formatting or training. The e-reader isn’t a trend. It’s a niche fad pushed with hype and hope.

I was in a Family bookstore last night picking up last minute gifts and bought myself three books for three dollars. How does one browse and make impromptu purchase like that with an e-book? E-readers may change the way we read periodicals, but it’s doubtful they will replace books.

Consumers will use e-readers to keep abreast of news, current trends and culture gossip. When it comes time to pick a book for entertainment, though, they’ll choose paper. We always have. Odds are we will for a very long time.

Thank you Eddie, I say Amen to the paper book sticking around. Of course as an agent it is in my best interest for it to do so- but long before my agent career, I have read and acquired paper books. They are my treasures, friends and counselors. This Christmas, I have wrapped many up for gifts. And the bow looked great afixed to the wrapped book.

Merry Christmas to you all.



Lea Ann McCombs said...

I hope you're right, that e-readers won't drive the book business out of business. We all see changes coming, but just how big those changes will be is anyone's guess. I guess every change always has people shaking their heads: "The horseless carriage won't ever replace a good old buckboard."

Maybe we'll get used to it. Maybe we'll even like it.

Jeanette Levellie said...

If you were here, Eddie, I'd hug you. Thanks for your voice of wisdom in a whirlwind of predictions.

Jesus is the Living Word. May His life increase in yours,

Unknown said...

I agree with your point of view on books. There is something special about books. I can remember as a kid, how I would always value the touch and feel of a Hardcover Book that I received as a gift. To this day, I still have my favorite childhood books neatly stored in a bookcase that I share with my family. I hope that this will help to instill in my children, the value of books, versus a Kindle. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
Happy Holidays to you.

Millie Samuelson said...

Great comments, Eddie! And I sure hope you're right. . . But hey, I remember typewriters, and LOTS of my young friends don't (lucky them). I've seen scrolls and papyrus books in museums, and as artifacts from China -- but not really not anyplace else. I've seen ancient hieroglyphs on stones that tell a story, but not any modern ones that I can recall. SO I WONDER. . . . And those last two words remind me of one of my favorite Christmas songs -- so enjoy your paper books while you can and CHRISTmas blessings! :-)

Elaine W. Miller said...

I can't imagine life without books, but I hoped to die before I owned a computer. Millie may be right. I hope Eddie is right. One thing is sure: Whatever happens, God is still in control and He tells us to "write these things so future generations will praise the Lord." So, I'll keep writing and trusting God for whatever form the printed page takes.

Merry Christmas everybody! I'm off to wrap some books. Any bows left, Eddie?

Caroline said...

I love books, and if they go "out", I may use the readers, but I'll still sit smugly in my recliner and eye my books with satisfaction.

Excellent thoughts, Eddie!