Are Paper Books Prehistoric?

If you’re followers of Joe Konrath’s popular blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, as I am, maybe you’ve seen the topic of traditional publishers and paper books versus eBooks and self-publishing debated many times. I myself have mulled the discussions over, listening to both sides intently, then coming to my own conclusions.

So here it is; my chance to share my thoughts and take on where the publishing world is headed. I chose this as my first post because there is nothing bigger, more monumental, than what is happening in publishing at the moment; therefore, it makes sense, as a fellow writer to address the topic at hand.

The past is a powerful predictor of the future. To me, predicting what will happen with bound books is as easy as comparing what has happened in the music and film industries.

It wasn’t long ago that compact discs replaced cassette tapes (something as unfamiliar as a dinosaur to my own kids). Technology didn’t stop there. Soon after, well-known devices such as iPod’s and MP3 Player’s became a much more efficient and cost-effective method for playing and storing music. The uprising of digital music storage has caused music stores to become obsolete. Demand for CD’s is not what it once was, leaving chain stores, such as, Wal-mart, Target, and Best Buy to pick up the slack of CD retail.

Something else I never imagined would fall from grace, were major DVD retailers and video rental stores, but alas my friends, they have, and will continue to do so. I, like many others, belong to Netflix. In this fast-paced, crazy, world we live in, having one less place to stop at the end of the day is a God send. Sure, I miss browsing the aisles of Blockbuster, looking at the new releases, but let’s face it, I accrued more late fees than I paid in rentals. I know I’m not alone in this; the convenience of your favorite movie being only one click, and one day away, is just too–well–damn convenient. And if that’s not enough, renting movies through the mail is no longer Netflix’s preferred method for renting. Instead, you can live stream movies to your television in second’s from your computer.

So what does all this say about publishing’s future, you might ask? Simple. While the technology of eReaders grow, and prices drop, sales of both devices and eBooks will continue to rise, while sales of traditional paper bound books diminish. It’s already happening. And book stores around the country (i.e. Borders) have already begun to shut their doors. Electronic readers simply present a better, more convenient method for buying and storing books, not to mention that prices of eBooks, in most cases, are drastically cheaper than paper. I expect younger generations to latch onto eReaders as their only method of reading, and I predict even schools will begin to use them.

Personally, my attachment to paper books (until recently) was huge. And maybe it still is, but I was one of those people, a little over a year ago, spouting off about how they would never get an eReader, that paper bound books simply could not and would not die. Well, folks, I’m here to eat those words. I recently bought my first Kindle, and I love it. In a little over a week, I read four books. Although I still love bound books, I have to say, my Kindle will most likely be my preferred method of reading, simply because of cost and convenience.

I don’t think that bound books will become extinct, nor do I necessarily think they will become a niche market like Konrath believes; however, I do think that what happened to CD’s is exactly what will happen with books. Eventually, (and I’m guessing in the next three years) there will be no more individualized bookstores, with the exception of a few Indie stores. Instead, you will see chain stores like Wal-Mart and Target with a much broader selection of books to account for paper sales.

I think those in the publishing world that fight this transition, will not succeed. You can’t fight technology. As a fellow writer, I for one, have decided not to fight the tide, and instead am embracing the new electronic world that has opened up for both readers and writers.

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5 thoughts on “Are Paper Books Prehistoric?

  1. Okay, I have no idea what I am doing as I have never tweeted, blogged, or anything remotely close (or have I)? But, I read your post and I have to say – Great job! Although I also have embraced the new technology (my Nook), I never thought I was actually saying my goodbye to the paper book world. However, like you, I have read many books this way and it’s so easy and downright fun! I don’t think you can ever discount the value of a traditional book though, there is something special about a book that can’t fully be captured by the technological world. That being said, I will continue to purchase and read both, but when it’s convenience I want I will always reach for my eReader! You mention that kids will soon be using these, interesting thought since I recently thought about something for my son (probably too young just yet) such as a Nook Color… We’ll see…

    You should go right on ePublishing – get to it! Can’t wait! Oh and I remember that conversation with you about never getting an eReader – told you so! 🙂

  2. I have been wanting an ereader for a while now and agree that they are the wave of the future. Our kids probably won’t even use books when they go to college.

  3. I really enjoyed reading your article. I have yet to embrace the “e-book world”, so I don’t have a basis for comparison. There is definitely something special about curling up and reading a good book (bound book) with a cup of tea in hand. I personally find it much more difficult to read from a computer screen, which is why I have yet to purchase a Kindle. I do, however, believe that you are correct that by the time our children are in high school (gasp!) they will embrace the e-reading.

  4. I’ve definitely embraced the digital world as a writer and therefore happily submit stories to online lit mags. But I still don’t own an e-reader. Can’t go there yet!

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