Recently on Facebook, a spokesperson for an independent bookstore said, "Small stores like ours will continue to be successful by providing something that many readers find critical--human interaction and meaningful conversation about books."

But will they continue to be successful?

I like human interaction and meaningful conversations about books as much as anyone. But then I enjoyed human interaction and meaningful conversation about records and movies, too. My preferences, however, didn't save all the record stores and video rental stores from disappearing, and it won't save most of the bookstores from disappearing either. Sad, but true.

I love paper books, and I still buy them sometimes. But, when you get down to it, e-books are a vastly superior delivery method for the written word; so, naturally, e-books will eventually take the lion's share of the total book market. We can fight it, or we can embrace it, but the end result is going to be the same.

So, we might as well embrace it, IMO. I'm 52, and I happen to love e-books, and I love my Kindle. And, when I think about the enormous amount of pollution created by producing and transporting and storing paper, I love my Kindle even more.

Trying to make the point that some people will always insist on good old fashioned paper books, the same bookseller I quoted above mentioned that the sales of vinyl records increased 40% from 2010 to 2011. But it seems to me that any sort of increase in the sales of obsolete formats is largely irrelevant. What we really have to look at is total market share, and that remains very small. Way too small to support the brick and mortar stores of yesteryear. Vinyl records are a niche market, and that's all they'll ever be from now on. Forever and ever and ever. Just like buggy whips.

And, in the not-too-distant future, dead tree books.


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I agree. I was a diehard paper fan until I picked up my first iPad—realized I could tuck 1000 novels under my arm, highlight sections, reference parts, take notes, read at night without a lamp... and play poker.

I do think paper books will remain for the foreseeable future, but they will become (like LPs) a 'collector's item.' I also think the current Print on Demand system is ideal—if somebody wants a printed version of my book, I print one copy. No dead forests, no ink runoff spillage in the harbor, no warehouse storage, little waste.

When you stop to think about it, reading is a solitary passion. So... why not book purchasing? Human interaction still exists (although one has to make increasingly more effort to seek it out.) However, we still have grocery stores. And good books... almost forgot. Interaction there too.

I hope both paper and e-books survive.  This would meet everyones's needs. I read both although I prefer my Kindle.   The important factor is the content not the delivery method.  E-books have given so many more people a pathway to publishing.  And don't give me the "crappy books" argument, have you read Grisham;'s last book?  Without his name and the sales that go with it, it would NEVER have made it.  And don't get me started on 50 Shades of Porn.

Bookstores need to worry, because they aren't delivering the reading experience to everyone.  For them, it's all about what the publishers want. I don't need a lounge to sit in, Starbucks provides one on almost every corner (at least here in Seattle).  My wife goes to the bookstore to browse books, then goes home and orders at Amazon.  Maybe they should be looking at providing Amazon booths?

Amazon booths! Great idea. Like the old photo booths. One friendly face in each... the best of both worlds!

I think paper books and ebooks will get along in the same way that TV gets along with movies and has for more than sixty years.

Also, the research firms whose job it is to prognosticate, prognosticate that ebooks will top out at fifty percent of the market or thereabouts.

I think paper books and ebooks will get along in the same way that TV gets along with movies and has for more than sixty years.

Movie theaters offer a different experience than watching television at home, and theaters still pretty much have a lock on new releases. No such difference exists between paper books and e-books. It's the same experience, just a different delivery system.

I would be very surprised if e-books top out at fifty percent. Eighty would be my guess. Probably more than that as the years roll by. Price, convenience, speed of delivery, special features, etc. It all adds up to a winning format. And all the diehard paper fans will eventually, you know, die.

I think the analogy is stronger than that, Jude. One could as easily say that TV offers "a vastly superior delivery method" for stories in the visual arts--in your f-ing living room, for God's sake--and at a much lower cost: typically free. (Certainly Hollywood film studios were terrified of TV when it first became popular starting in the early 1950s.) You could also say that ebooks offer "a different experience" than paper books. Certainly that's the argument you hear from supporters of print books over and over again. (See Ingrid's comments below, for example.)

I agree that ebooks topping out at 50% sounds low. But I'm just reporting what some of the experts have said. If I had to guess, I'd say we'll settle in at 65% ebooks, 35% print. I've got to fill up my built-in bookcase shelves somehow!

Well, I've stopped going to the movies.  I also watch TV only selectively, much less than I used to in my younger years.  I don't go to book stores any longer, but that is because I'm angry about the way they have treated me since I've become a writer.  I go to the library a lot.  That's where I sample.  Then I go to Amazon.

I have a Kindle but haven't become used to it. I still like paper books better.  There is something ephemeral about an e-book, but for genre fiction that's probably not a bad thing.  Few people keep genre novels around after they''ve read them, and used book stores do nothing for authors. So the electronic delivery system works well for them. (Mind you, I have fans who insist on owning all the books in the series.  They are very upset that the last 2 novels are only e-books).

Ingrid, why don't you use Createspace to provide your fans print copies?

I've started looking into this. Not sure I have the brains for it. It seems to require Math.  :)

The only advantage I can see that paper books have over e-books is in the case of textbooks or other reference volumes where you would sometimes need to flip back and forth between sections. But I think any sort of sentimental attachment to paper (novels, memoirs, pop psychology, etc.) will largely disappear with the next generation of book buyers. I have some signed first editions and some other favorites I'll probably hang on to, but most of my paper books have gone out the door as donations.

Yes, Createspace is the way to go for paper copies.  P. O. D. and the numbers work every way around.

As far as the death of paper--I don't think anyone here will live to see it.  The only debate is the market share each will end up with.

One could as easily say that TV offers "a vastly superior delivery method" for stories in the visual arts--in your f-ing living room, for God's sake--and at a much lower cost: typically free.

This is true. So why do people go to movie theaters at all? Because the experience is DIFFERENT. Hardly anyone has a thirty foot screen in their house, for one thing, or a sound system that's anywhere close to what you get at a theater. Plus, there's a perception that going to a theater is "doing something" while sitting at home and watching TV is doing nothing. And there's something about sitting in an auditorium and having a common experience with a group of strangers that's attractive to some people. And of course in theaters you get to see movies and talk about them months before they're available for home viewing.

I guess you could argue that the experience of reading a paper book is slightly different than the experience of reading an e-book. With paper you get the tactile experience of turning pages (sometimes filthy ones if you're reading a used copy or a library copy), and you get the experience of smelling the glue and other toxic chemicals used in the manufacturing process. Yee-haw. I somehow doubt that those experiences are enough to keep paper dominant as a format.

I agree that ebooks topping out at 50% sounds low. But I'm just reporting what some of the experts have said.

Do you have a link? I'm curious about which experts are saying that.


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