If I were a gambling man, I'd place my money on e-books becoming the dominant way people consume fiction. Saleswise, they already are in many markets. Give it a couple more years, and e-books will be beamed directly into eyeballs.

 

So does it matter for an author of any genre to put out a print book?

 

Tonight, I was at an event with many prospective readers. Let's call them, "my relatives." They said Kindles are great and everything, but they really wanted a print book. Given they tend to be middle class, educated women in their mid-years (i.e. a large demographic that buys books on a regular basis), I took their comments to heart.

 

It's good to get with the times on the e-book front, but it'd be foolish to abandon traditional readers. The beauty of this Golden Age of Writing is you can have it both ways. It's never been easier to fill readers' preferences in every demographic.

 

I'm not alone in this thinking. New York Times bestselling author Debbi Mack - someone who made it big on e-books - writes more about print books here on her blog.

 

What do you think? Do print books still matter?

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Yes. I don't think they will ever go completely away. Even more than the musical and video hard copies, there is just something about a physical book.

Certainly the book will become less dominant. It might even become just a minority of the market. But it's not going away. It might be easier to only produce e-books in the future, but I think most authors are still going to want their books featured on bookshelves. Hard copies are here to stay. E-books too. :)

Eventually the print book will go away. We say it won't, but that's because we grew up in a time when print books were either all there was, or were at least special to us. So there's nostalgia there. But the young people growing up now are not attached to printed matter like we are; they've come into a world where ebooks are easy to get, where everything is online in some way; that nostalgia for print books is missing for them, so as they grow older and the generation after them comes up, new print books will slowly disappear.

Nostalgia isn't the only reason people buy print books. The replacement cost is low (a consideration for travelers), bookshelves will always be tasteful decoration and libraries will continue to stock them for those who can't afford e-readers/tablets.

That's not to say print will stay anywhere near it is today in popularity. But they'll always be with us. Print newspapers were supposed to be dead 10 years ago. I still get a daily at the end of my driveway each morning.

I'm talking more long term than 10 years or so. I'm talking several generations from now.

And you may well be right, John. There are already kids in school who have never seen a newspaper before.

Isn't that what they said about physical music? Yet I still see a small niche market for even vinyl among people who were not even alive when vinyl was the norm. Books are even more imbedded in our culture than any music medium. Books ain't going anywhere. The nostalgia factor is powerful, and I think it'll have more hold on more people than you realize. But again, there's also simply the factor that many people prefer to simply read a physical book. The book will not be the dominant much longer, but it's not going away completely. 

When my 19-year-old daughter was travelling in Europe recently, she took her e-reader along for convenience, but while visiting London she had a sudden urge to re-read the first Harry Potter and she wanted to read it in paper form. Nostalgia definitely plays a part here, but there is also something very tangible about the physical form of a book rather than yet another electronic gadget. Will it become a niche, most definitely, unless some book-loving super villain unleashes an EMP pulse across North America . . .

But again, there's also simply the factor that many people prefer to simply read a physical book.

And I'm one of those people. Also, I like a room full of books. I enjoy poking around to see what I haven't read in awhile.  Same with libraries.  I may go directly to a book I want to check out, but I also enjoy browsing the shelves.  

People can have their kindles and their e-books if they like them, but I'm glad there's still a choice.  If in a few generations there's nothing but that, no more books, I won't be around to grumble. 

 

No more print books? But I've got all these lovely built-in bookcases in my house ...

Just steal some of those faux books from a furniture store. It's not like anyone would actually want to read them, right?

The problem isn't with print books.  It's with publishers.  They are losing authors.  Most likely they will eventually adjust the way they do business.  Until then, bestsellers and non-fiction will rule.

Yes, I agree, I think publishers (or "media" companies) will adjust. They have a lot of capital that hasn't been used entirely well in the emergence of ebooks, but adjustments will be made.

Usually when people online discuss "ebooks vs. paper books" the discussion is really about self-published ebooks vs. publisher-published paper books, but I think this is a phase the industry is going through. I would like to bet on the indie-spirit and determination of individual authors but it's so rare for the big money to not win.

Publishers are losing authors, but Amazon is becoming not only a publisher but also a TV and movie production company and will soon tie up all the rights to whatever it buys.

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