After seeing this post about the death of the hardcover, and the projected future of electronic readers and books as high-priced luxury items, I'm left officially bummed out.

I can't imagine a future where you curl up with a handheld electronic gadget instead of a book. I guess I don't want to. For someone who publishes an e-zine, I'll openly admit to limiting my onscreen reading time because it hurts my eyes.

Do you guys thing crimeficreader is being melodramatic, or do you think the dreaded future is closer than we want to admit?

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Yeah, I wonder what impact the delivery system will have on the content of books. I know with music, I used to buy whole albums and now I buy songs. I have notoriously bad taste in music, but the stuff I used to buy was made as a whole album. I don't even know if that's true anymore (that could have just been a blip in history).

A lot of the problems you mention, though scary, seem quite plausible.
We do keep hearing about the "death of the book". I don't see it for the near future, but then again, I had a chance to play with one of those Sony things with electronic "paper" where you weren't getting a light shining in your face and it was kind of cool. True, you can't thumb through your shelves but you can "thumb" through your selections when you feel like a bit of a read.

My 17-year-old son who is a major techy would love one of those. But he also enjoys trolling down the aisles of used bookstores as well as new and looking at covers and reading blurbs. So what is the future? I suspect a bit of both.
I could be talking out my arse, but ... I keep seeing this whole discussion as very similar to the music industry's path. People are always predicting the death of things, but all that happens is change. Vinyl became a niche product for DJs, then every teenager wanted to become one, so vinyl is still alive and kicking, albeit in smaller numbers. CDs are supposedly selling even more than they used to, and those sales are now complemented by MP3 sales. I think that, eventually, CD sales will slow down, to be replaced by MP3 sales, but there will always be those that still want a physical object.

The publishing industry is slower in every respect than the music industry, though, but I think it's moving in a similar direction. With POD and eBooks on the rise, the hardcover will probably go the way of vinyl, as a niche product for collectors (possibly like the special edition DVDs that come out now for movies). Since Australia isn't a hardcover-based market, I'm not too fussed, as I prefer paperbacks. Reviewers will catch on once hardcovers die down and open up reviews to trade paperbacks.

Publishers putting out eBooks will eventually settle the marketing/protection/format issues once they have an established market of hardware readers. And I think that's happening already, in the form of the iPhone and other smart mobile phones. Dymocks, an Australian bookstore has opened up sales of eBooks, which is something that non-global brick & mortar stores haven't done before (as far as I know).

But all this is so slow, and I imagine it will be down to future generations who are brought up with words on screen and not on paper.

Or I could be totally off the mark and something else completely different may happen. Why dread the future, just because it involves change?
I agree Daniel - change is just change, it doesn't necessarily mean it's a huge improvement and it doesn't always mean the death of [insert private preference here]. I think the major issue with ebooks that I see is access / format.

Closed or proprietary systems will obviously be first cab off the rank because everybody thinks that the only way to make money is to close off the technology to everybody else. Been there, done that, the T-Shirt was more useful than the the gadget.

On Access - one more plastic fantastic to crowd up the garbage dumps of the "haves" whilst the have nots, frequently in other countries, can't even get their hands on the old technology.

Mind you, the chances of me ever buying an ebook reader are 5/8ths of 4/5ths of zero - but I might be vaguely tempted if it was open format / open source and it wouldn't just assume that I used Windows on everything else.
I'm of like mind, too...

and how many of us ever would have imagined we'd be reading and posting so much in a place like Crimespace and all these blogs from authors who used to just get the jacket flap or back??? In this way, we've all changed dramatically and likely that will not go back.

And once you have an ebook reader that's as comfortable as a paperback, and can store your whole library of unread books and take it with you wherever you go, and not have to pay postage to get your books (instant gratification-download it, there it is!), and you're using a medium most of us work on anyway... but I continue to treasure my hardcovers, especially signed editions. I don't think getting electronic signatures will ever be the same!
Sure, Print On Demand (POD) books and eBooks are getting big, but let's not forget podcasts, which are basically an exact replica of what's been happening in the music industry. Publishing is reacting to these--recognizing these--extremely slowly, but they are and they will be. I've signed a book deal because of my podcast and two others just signed deals way bigger than mine. We'll see some changes in the coming year as podcasting and podcast fiction becomes more widely known and seen as a great (free) means of promotion.
I remember having a conversation with a friend of mine about five years back debating short fiction on the web versus short fiction in a magazine or book. His take was that people don't want to read anything on a screen.

I'd say we're past that stage, now.
I think there's no way we see the death of the book anytime soon. I've said this in other forums and I believe it 100%. Recognize that this is coming from a guy who's probably got the one of most web/non-book presences around! I'm the author of "the world's first podcast-only crime novel."

So even with podcasts, publishing on the web and distributing free pdfs of my work, I don't think there's any way the book will die. On one hand, there's nothing better for cuddling up with and really relaxing on the couch, in bed, or absolutely anywhere you'd go--the book is so easily portable--and on the other hand is the fact that we've been reading books for umpteen centuries. They're not going to go away. Fact is, when listeners like what I'm doing, it's a book that they want to buy first and foremost. Anything they like, it's a book. People want ownership of something to show what they like, whether it's a cd of their favorite band, a t-shirt, or a movie on DVD. For us, the product we have to offer in the real world (non-electronic) is the book. Come on--it's what shelves are for!

Last reason I think books will stay around is because, as you've said, reading online or on some kind of screen just isn't the same. Paper, baby, there's still nothing better.
At my age I would rather curl up with a book. I wear trifocals and dislike reading online for too long a time.
I saw an ad recently about a new electronic book where one can go from page to page easily, and the unit was easily carried, However, there is something magical about being able to flip pages. Long live books!
The future might be closer than we think.

Amazon's Kindle sold out in 5.5 hours.
I like the comment at the New York Times on the Kindle - "Is there a reason they made it look like an answering machine?" The word "ugly" comes up a lot. And expensive. It may have sold out (strategically?) but I don't think it's the future.

We're in for an interesting ride, though. I was recently reading a fat mass market paperback and thought it was a crappy technology for reading. The print was muddy, the margins were stingy, it was hard to hold open, my eyes started to hurt. And it wasn't any prettier than an answering machine.
I tend to agree with the idea that reading an ebook onscreen just isn't as 'cozy" as curling up in a comfortable chair or sitting up in a nice warm bed and reading printed words. I won't even accept e-books for review because I just don't have the time or inclination to sit in front of a screen for hours to read a novel. As it is, I spend enough time writing novels that way.

Douglas Quinn


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